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How Cat Stevens Made Bill Murray's New Film Happen

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Director Barry Levinson tells how he needed the Muslim pop star's okay to produce "Rock the Kasbah."

When noted film director Barry Levinson (Diner, Rain Man, The Natural, Bugsy, Wag the Dog, and many more) first read the script for his new film, Rock the Kasbah, he realized he needed the help of a pop icon: Yusuf Islam--that is, the singer/songwriter formely known as Cat Stevens.

In this comedy (dark at times, sweet at times), which opens this weekend, Bill Murray plays a down-and-way-out LA talent manager who has but one act left in his falling-apart stable, a neurotic bar singer (Zooey Deschanel). Yet somehow he finds a gig for her: USO shows in Afghanistan. And off they jet to the war zone, where soon Murray's only meal ticket abandons him, and he's stranded in Kabul with no passport, no money, and no way home. Hijinks -- and violence -- ensue, as Murray falls into the world of sleazy arms dealers, cynical American mercenaries (including a tough guy played by Bruce Willis), and competing tribal warlords. But this is no adventure flick. It's a tale of cultural and spiritual bridge-building -- with laughs -- because Murray, stuck at one point in rural Afghanistan, stumbles into a cave and discovers an Afghan teenage girl (Leem Lubany) singing beautifully. And the song she's covertly crooning is Cat Stevens' "Trouble."

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David Corn is  Mother Jones ' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories,  click here . He's also  on  Twitter  and  FacebookRSS  |    David is (more...)
 

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