In his memoir, “Then They Came for me,” journalist Maziar Bahari chronicles an exceptionally difficult period in his life. The book recounts his imprisonment and torture in Iran following the Green Revolution and has now been turned into the movie “Rosewater” directed by Jon Stewart.
Gael Garcia Bernal (“Y tu Mamá También,” “Amores Perros”) plays Bahari in Stewart's film. It is a role which has Bernal spend a significant portion of the film playing a character in jail, one who mainly gets to interact with an interrogator. Bahari does not even know the name of this man who tortures him for an extended period.
Playing the role of Bahari in prison cannot have been an easy task, but Bernal is quite clear about the fact that the Maziar Bahari he is playing is not the Maziar Bahari who wrote the book. There are simply (and by necessity) too many intermediaries between Bahari the man in prison and Bahari the character in prison in “Rosewater.”
That isn't to suggest that Bernal removed himself from the true story and the real events surrounding it. To the contrary, he spent time with the book, he spent time learning about Iran, and he spent time with the real Bahari.
We got the chance to sit down with Bernal to discuss “Rosewater” the actor's part in it and we got to discuss much of the above. One of the first things Bernal did during our talk was to make his approach to Bahari the character clear.
“Getting along with Maziar was key to interpret[ing] this new character,” Bernal said. He continued, explaining in part the difference between reality and film, “Because I'm not doing a reincarnation of him [Bahari], I'm doing an interpretation of his journey, of what he went through.”
Bernal noted that one of the main intermediaries in the process of making a film (by necessity) is the director, in this case Jon Stewart. Better known as the host of “The Daily Show,” “Rosewater” was Stewart's first time in the director's chair. Bernal made it clear during our discussion that he liked working with the TV personality.
The actor got to see Stewart grow and change over the course of the shoot. Bernal told us, “It was incredible to work with him,” and later added that over the course of filming Stewart, “became more of the director that he is.”
Perhaps more succinctly, of Stewart's efforts and growth, Bernal said that not only is he, Bernal, happy to have become friends with Stewart, but he's also “proud of him” and that it was “lovely” to work with Stewart.
You can see the results of their collaboration for yourself as “Rosewater” is in theaters today.