Jon Stewart, erstwhile host, writer, and executive producer of the satirical late-night talk show and news program The Daily Show, has dabbled sparingly in the realm of feature filmmaking in the past. His directorial debut Rosewater took a more dramatic turn than expected for the long-time comedian, but Stewart seems ready to embark on a follow-up that will take him back to his roots.
As reported by Variety, Stewart is in the early stages of putting together his sophomore feature, titled Irresistible. The movie won’t be an adaptation, although it will operate within Stewart’s regular wheelhouse of political satire.
Steve Carell, who worked with Stewart on The Daily Show from 1999 to 2005 and is most well-known for NBC’s comedy series The Office, is said to be the top contender to star in the picture. However, Irresistible is still seeking out financiers and developers, so none of this is set in stone. Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment will produce the film along with Stewart himself.
Despite the fact that Variety has not revealed very much information about Irresistible, to begin with, the mere knowledge of Stewart’s prominent return to the media landscape is certainly noteworthy. He has kept a relatively low profile since he stepped down from his 16-year stint on The Daily Show.
Stewart hasn’t completely disappeared from the public eye. He occasionally makes appearances on Stephen Colbert’s eponymous late-night series (which Stewart also executive produces). He has a four-year media deal with HBO, which includes the creation of exclusive digital content for HBO-adjacent platforms. Stewart was slated to premiere an animation project on HBO Now and HBO Go, but time and resource constraints on content creation and distribution ultimately axed the venture.
At the very least, Stewart’s ties to HBO have netted him two stand-up specials due to air on the network. He hasn’t done one of those since 1996. Furthermore, Stewart hosted the comedy benefit “Night of Too Many Stars” in late 2017, which was broadcast live on HBO.
Yet, along with Stewart’s reemergence in the film industry, Irresistible is especially buzzworthy given how it already seems to contrast with his debut film.
There are things to admire about how ambitious Rosewater is for a first feature. Based on the memoirs of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, the political drama tackles his detainment in Iran. Played by Gael García Bernal in the film, Bahari’s coverage of the fallout of the 2009 Iranian presidential election put him up for scrutiny. He also notably conducted a satirical interview with then-correspondent of The Daily Show Jason Jones. Bahari was imprisoned for 118 days, during which he was brutally interrogated.
Rosewater clearly deals with harrowing subject matter in a well-intentioned way. However, the film ultimately suffers from being clinical in its dissection of human rights issues. Rather, it more proficiently serves as a sporadically humorous, if oddly paced character study. In fact, Rosewater‘s levity is actually one of the project’s strong suits. Credit goes to Stewart’s demonstrable expertise in enhancing solemnity with dark comedy, and García Bernal’s own subtle comedic timing (although it is jarring to watch a Mexican actor portray an Iranian man).
Thus, while the overall story of Rosewater ends up being unfortunately inconsistent, Stewart shows a budding skill behind the camera. If he were to actually work with Carell on his second feature, they could possibly make an unstoppable match.
Carell’s turn on The Daily Show definitely acts as the perfect precursor to Michael Scott, his protagonist on The Office. These shows highlight Carell’s effortless deadpan delivery style that went on to define his career for years hence. Alongside his small screen success as Dunder Mifflin Paper Company’s bumbling regional manager, Carell’s purely comedic era on the big-screen is characterized by leading roles in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Evan Almighty.
Nevertheless, inklings of Carell’s dramatic chops can be found, too, namely in films like Little Miss Sunshine and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Still, it was Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher that fully revealed a much graver side of Carell to the rest of us. The film garnered the actor a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
While Carell has starred in all-out tear-jerkers since (Freeheld and Beautiful Boy), Adam McKay keeps the biting dark humor alive in The Big Short and presumably his upcoming Dick Cheney biopic, Vice. Obviously, I can’t speak for Vice just yet — its trailer does look delightfully riotous, though. On the other hand, The Big Short delivers sharp commentary and ample chuckles that is honestly unexpected from the director of Anchorman. The film’s robust cast, Carell included, doesn’t allow the film to slow down for a second, either.
The best of Stewart’s content truly inspires laughter, even if that often comes with a healthy dose of self-aware cringing. Carell has never been one to shy away from ridiculous and fearsome characters within comedy or drama, and when he’s allowed to do both at the same time, he’s extra electric. In the midst of 2018’s rocky political climate, there’s plenty for Irresistible to take aim at. I’m just hoping that Stewart and Carell really get to team up for it.