Ewan McGregor talks about "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"


British actors Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas star in BBC Films' inspirational comedy “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” from Oscar-nominated director Lasse Halstrom (“Chocolat”).

The film is adapted for the screen by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) based on the bestselling novel of the same title by Paul Torday.

In the film, a visionary sheik (Amr Waked) believes his passion for the peaceful pastime of salmon fishing can enrich the lives of his people, and he dreams of bringing the sport to the not so fish-friendly desert. Willing to spare no expense, he instructs his representative (Blunt) to turn the dream into reality, an extraordinary feat that will require the involvement of Britain's leading fisheries expert (McGregor) who happens to think the project both absurd and unachievable. That is, until the Prime Minister's overzealous press secretary (Scott Thomas) latches on to it as a 'good will' story. Now, this unlikely team will put it all on the line and embark on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible, possible.

At the recent London press conference for the film, the cast led by Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, rising star Amr Waked and producer Paul Webster gamely answered questions from journalists. Excerpts from the interview follow:

Question: Paul, was this film a tough sell for you? The charms are obvious and the strengths of the film, albeit, come from another successful book.
Paul Webster: Yes it was. It took the combination of Emily and Ewan and then Lasse joining, on the back of a big hit, “Dear John,” to get the film moving. I still think the movie is quite a hard sell, particularly in America, with a title like “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” But, I always remember people recommended that the title for “Four Weddings and a Funeral” should be changed, and call it “The Best Man,” and now the film has slipped into the lexicon. I think it is a wonderful collision.

Q: Ewan, in the book, your character, Fred, is written as an older man, and obviously the character has been modified, somewhat, to suit your casting, but do you find yourself drawn to different parts now that reflect the fact that you are a man in your 40s?
Ewan McGregor: How dare you [laughs]. I felt that we could have aged me up, with talk about putting silver in my hair or something, but I felt that we could achieve his uptightness with the acting. It wasn’t important to me to make him older. I think it is possible to achieve the same effect. It’s not necessarily an age thing. I mean, nobody is offering me 20-year old leads any more, but like you said, I am in my 40’s, so it’s kind of natural that that is the case.

Q: Emily, it's been said that the most excited people when you were cast in this were your mom and dad - have they seen the film? What is their verdict, so to speak?
Emily Blunt: They must have liked it a lot because they are going to see it again tonight. I've offered them dinner with their long lost daughter, who lives in the States, but they’ve said no [laughs]. They’re going to sit through the film again, because they love it. I think my mom has brought, like, 15 other Blunts with her! After seeing it, my mom said “how refreshing to see such an original, uplifting film.” I think there is an audience fatigue with all of these big blockbuster movies - some of them are great – and people are crying out for great stories and something that will make you feel something in some way.

Q: Amr, what was your experience of the art of salmon fishing before you discovered the film and the book?
Amr Waked: It was actually quite educating. We don't really have salmon fishing in the Middle-East but we eat salmon, so it was quite interesting to see how this big fish is taken out of the water. It’s quite a special way of fishing. It’s not really like other forms. It takes much more time and needs a lot more physical ability.

Q: Ewan, there has been some suggestion that you used a very prissy Scottish accent in the film. Could you tell us why you chose to use that specific accent?
McGregor: My character, Fred, is not Scottish in the book, and I felt like there was no reason why he shouldn’t be, and in actual fact, it would be helpful if he was. I was speaking to Simon, the writer of the screenplay, because I found it really hard to get hold of our director [laughs]. So, I sat down with Simon, and he was the one who suggested the Morningside accent. It’s such an uptight accent and it is perfect for Fred, and regardless of how uptight Fred is at the start of the script, he is like, the sort of romantic lead of the film, so I felt it was important to get it right.

Q: The film seems to be about believing in the unbelievable. Is there anything that has happened to your, in your careers that you thought would never happen to you?
Blunt: I never know how to answer that as I don’t feel like there has been a specific job, in my career that I thought was going to be impossible, but I think that the fact I get to do this job, in general, is pretty improbable because it so competitive. I really enjoy the unknown of this job and being quite fatalistic about what is going to happen next.

McGregor: There’s some moments when you go out of your trailer to go on set, and you don’t know how you’re going to do what you’re expected to do, then you come back and you’re like, “oh, that went quite well.”

Waked: My entire career has been linked to fate. This movie itself is linked to fate, as for me I never believed I would be in it, and I never thought it would be so well received. I believe I am a product of fate.

“Salmon Fishing” opens exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta 4, Greenbelt 3 and Trinoma) starting Oct. 10.

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