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The Contender: Gael GarcÍa Bernal

Inside the minds of the actors who gave 2014’s most astonishing performances

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The role of Maziar Bahari in Rosewater was appealing to Gael García Bernal for a number of reasons: One was that Bahari’s story—he’s an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was jailed in Tehran while covering the 2009 presidential elections—made for a compelling, inspiring tale. Another was that the film marks the directorial debut of Jon Stewart. “He has an acute intelligence,” Bernal says, “and he put me off balance in a very good way.”

Working in Jordan on the movie, which follows Bahari’s incarceration, might have been challenging, but Bernal says it was never a chore. “It wasn’t hard to go to work on this film,” he says. “On the contrary it was a great experience. Like any job, it had difficult parts, but nothing will change if this film doesn’t exist.”

Rosewater addresses freedom of speech and freedom of the press among other issues and relies heavily on Bernal to portray a man whose interest in fairness lands him in prison

“I think the consequences of this movie are yet to be seen,” Bernal says. “In terms of doing a job with a big heart and attempting to put a finger on an important subject, it was one of the best roles of my life.”

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Go behind the scenes at DuJour‘s photo shoot for Hollywood’s most incredible actors of 2014