Former Newsweek reporter and best-selling author Maziar Bahari had his hands full with the adaptation of his book, Then They Came For Me a family’s story of love, captivity, and survival into the film Rosewater.
The film written for the big screen and directed by comedian Jon Stewart hit theaters nationwide on November 14th and depicts Bahari’s real life struggle during his detainment in an Iranian prison.
“I don’t think any story is worth dying for,” said Bahari, who was interrogated and physically and emotionally tortured by a revolutionary guard in Iran for 118 days. “Journalists try their best to tell stories in the best way they can and sometimes that becomes very dangerous because authoritarian governments and terrorist groups are making journalists a target.”
The Iranian government pegged Bahari, who had smuggled riot footage to the BBC and took part in a comedy sketch for Stewart’s The Daily Show, as a spy and held him against his will in 2009.
Rosewater, essentially a drama detailing the circumstances thousands of journalists find themselves in while working in the Middle East, intertwines poignant scenes with humorous ones.
Was this Jon Stewart’s doing?
“All the humor in the film is pulled from the book,” said Bahari, who claims the book encompasses even more humor than the movie. “Whenever you look at the hypocrisy of people, people who think they have a monopoly on truth…that’s funny.”
Bahari notes that authoritarian regimes whether it’s now deceased Hugo Chavez’s, Rhuholla Khomeini’s or Vladmir Putin’s lack a sense of humor and describes his interaction with his interrogator as nonsensical.
“He thought that after beating me, insulting me and torturing me he could go to heaven and have sex with 72 virgins,” he said. “But to me he was just a miserable man that could do all these bad things and go to hell so the ideological disparities are very funny.”
All laughs aside, there’s been worldwide controversy over Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal role as Bahari, who is Iranian-Canadian.
“The story about Rosewater is a universal story,” said Bahari. “Jon Stewart made a conscious decision to cast international actors in the film.”
Bahari mentions the varying nationalities of the film’s cast and jokes that although Gael Garcia Bernal is not as handsome as he is, he was definitely the best actor for the part.
“He’s an amazing actor,” said Bahari of Garcia Bernal. “When we looked at audition tapes we were sure that he was the best fit, not only because he’s a great actor but because he’s a politically conscious person who knew the story well and knew the nuances of the story.”
Bahari assures that even if the actor chosen for the part wouldv’e been Middle Eastern or even so specifically Iranian, if he couldn’t convey the layers of information and emotion the way Gael Garcia Bernal did in the film, then it wouldn’t have been a good film.
“The most important thing for Jon Stewart and I was to make a good universal film,” he said. “And I think we achieved that.”