UPDATE, 9:55 AM: Open Road has made it official, announcing this morning that it acquired Jon Stewart‘s Rosewater. A fall release is planned and the OddLot-financed adaptation will be shown and to select buyers in Cannes. The full release is below our original exclusive.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, FRIDAY PM : Open Road is nearing a deal to acquire U.S. rights to Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s feature directorial debut Rosewater, an adaptation of the Maziar Bahari book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity And Survival. Stewart wrote the script and took a summer hiatus from his Comedy Central show to direct. OddLot Entertainment fully financed the film and Gigi Pritzker and Scott Rudin produced it.
The film stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Bahari and his harrowing ordeal of leaving London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential elections. With a pregnant fiance left behind, the BBC journalist expected to be away for a week. Instead, he spent the next 118 days in Iran’s most notorious prison being brutally interrogated by a man he knew only by one thing: he smelled of Rosewater. Shohreh Aghdashloo plays Bahari’s mother, whose home he was visiting when he was arrested. Sierra/Affinity is selling offshore rights at the film market next week at the Cannes Film Festival. Garcia is on the festival jury and word is that a private screening of the film might well be held for buyers there.
Open Road earlier this week bought the Pierre Morel-directed The Gunman, the Studiocanal-backed film that stars Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba and Ray Winstone. Why wait to get to Cannes to battle over the hot titles?
Neither Open Road nor the producers would comment, but I believe the deal is just about closed or will be sealed by the time everyone hits the Croisette. UTA brokered the distribution deal for the filmmakers and arranged the financing.
Los Angeles, CA, May 12, 2013 – Open Road Films announced today that it has acquired U.S. distribution to Jon Stewart’s ROSEWATER, the feature film based on the New York Times best-selling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival, written by BBC journalist Maziar Bahari. The announcement was made today by Tom Ortenberg, CEO of Open Road Films.
A true story, the film marks the screenwriting and directorial debut of The Daily Show host and anchor Jon Stewart, and stars Gael Garcia Bernal, leading an international cast. ROSEWATER is produced by Scott Rudin, Stewart, and Gigi Pritzker, with Lila Yacoub and Eli Bush serving as executive producers.
ROSEWATER was financed by OddLot Entertainment. Open Road Films plans to release the film in Fall 2014. Sierra/Affinity, which is overseeing international sales of the project, will be showing the film to select buyers during the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
The deal was negotiated by UTA on behalf of the filmmakers and on behalf of Open Road Films by Ortenberg, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, Elliott Kleinberg, and Executive Vice President of Production & Acquisitions, Peter Lawson.
“This is an exciting, prestigious project and we could not be happier to partner with Jon Stewart, Scott Rudin, Gigi Pritzker and the rest of the OddLot team,” said Tom Ortenberg, CEO of Open Road Films. “We look forward to a successful release of this compelling film.”
“We are incredibly proud of this film and we are looking forward to working with Tom Ortenberg and his team at Open Road Films on this wonderful project,” Pritzker said.
ROSEWATER follows the Tehran-born Bahari, a 42-year-old broadcast journalist with Canadian citizenship living in London. In June 2009, Bahari returned to Iran to interview Mir-Hossein Moussavi, who was the prime challenger to controversial incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Moussavi’s supporters rose up to protest Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration hours before the polls closed on election day, Bahari endured great personal risk by submitting camera footage of the unfolding street riots to the BBC. Bahari was soon arrested by Revolutionary Guard police, led by a man identifying himself only as “Rosewater,” who proceeded to torture and interrogate the journalist over the next 118 days.
In October 2009, with Bahari’s wife leading an international campaign from London to have her husband freed, and Western media outlets including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart continuing to keep the story alive, Iranian authorities released Bahari on $300,000 bail and the promise he would act as a spy for the government.
ROSEWATER has a direct connection to Stewart, who since taking over as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show in 1999, has turned the nightly half-hour satirical look at newsmakers and news-coverers into not only a perennial Emmy-winning juggernaut, but also an important touchstone on the zeitgeist. Stewart’s reach with his show appeals to a broad age group including those 18-24 years of age, many of whom get their news updates solely from The Daily Show. Stewart and The Daily Show covered Bahari’s saga nightly and had the journalist appear on the show to talk about his ordeal once he was released from prison.