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For more of our interview with director and comedian Jon Stewart, watch "The Lead with Jake Tapper" on CNN at 4 p.m. ET.
(CNN) – Hollywood's current preference for big superhero flicks and reliable franchises with multiple sequels, left comedian Jon Stewart scrambling to find someone willing to take on the story of a Canadian journalist imprisoned in Iran, accused of working with various spy agencies.
"We tried to get it off the ground as a film and had trouble finding people that would do it for the money we were offering, which was free. We were saying, do this for free. So, I ended up doing it," Stewart said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
"We approached different writers, different directors, they were not interested, or they were doing 'Fast and Furious 76,'" said journalist Maziar Bahari.
"Rosewater," Stewart's directorial debut, tells the story of Bahari, an Iranian Canadian journalist jailed in 2009 for covering Iran's post-election protests for Newsweek. When "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" traveled to Iran, comedian Jason Jones interviewed Bahari for a segment that aired on the mock news show. When he was imprisoned, interrogators showed the skit to Bahari as proof of his work as a spy.
"When I came out of prison I went on "The Daily Show," and then we became friendly. We talked about a project, and Jon wanted to be the producer of that film," Bahari said. "After a year and a half of talking to different people, Jon said, 'Let’s just do it ourselves.'"
"We thought it was a current story. It was the kind of thing that felt like we wanted it to be told in our lifetimes," said Stewart.