UPDATE: After I broke the news, Jon Stewart told the media his feelings about going from television to movies. “I am a television person who is accustomed to having a thought at 10 AM and having it out there at 6:30 PM and moving on, so this is a little scary, yes.” He added: “One of the reasons we are in this business is to challenge ourselves.”
11 AM EXCLUSIVE: Jon Stewart will take a 12-week summer hiatus from hosting Comedy Central‘s The Daily Show to make his feature directing debut. In his absence, Daily Show regular John Oliver will be guest host for eight weeks of fresh shows. Stewart has written the script for and will direct Rosewater, an adaptation of the book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity And Survival. Published in 2011 by Random House, the book is Maziar Bahari’s 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. Bahari wrote the book with Aimee Molloy. Scott Rudin will produce with Stewart and Gigi Pritzker. Pritzker’s OddLot Entertainment is financing the film.
While Stewart is known for his humor, taking on a geopolitical hot button issue film like this is in keeping with how he has made his show an important part of the conversation on political matters. He quietly optioned the book through his Busboy Productions banner, and had a personal stake in the story: After Bahari was accused of spying, one of the items used against him was an appearance he made on The Daily Show. I can’t remember when a well established daily talk show host has taken a hiatus like this to pursue a passion project.
Stewart has acted in numerous films over the years, and hosted the Oscars in 2008; Rosewater marks his first time writing and directing a feature.
Rich Klubeck of UTA sold the entire package to OddLot. ICM’s Ron Bernstein sold the book to Stewart quietly a year ago. James Dixon manages Stewart.