Ewan McGregor was not a fisherman when he signed on for SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, but he did identify with the sense of transcendence that fisher folk sometimes achieve while waiting for something to take their bait. For McGregor, it’s motorcycling across remote regions of the world, and when we spoke on February 28, 2012, that was one of the subjects we covered. He was also keen to describe what it was about this unusual story about an unlikely dream that most appealed to him. We finished with him describing how he and his daughter looked at a map of the world one night, and how that inspired two seasons of his series with pal Charlie Boorman traversing the world by motorcycle.
The film is a tale of faith, absurdity, and the magical combination of the two. McGregor is Alfred Jones, an expert on fishing and a government functionary tasked against his will and his better judgment into helping a visionary Yemeni sheik achieve his dream of bringing sport fishing to the desert, and not just to help his people find a novel way to pass their time. It’s part a reworking of Walton’s The Compleat Angler, part meditation on modern realpolitiks played on the local and global level, and part musing the mysteries of the human heart. The film co-stars Emily Blunt, Kristen Scott-Thomas, Rachel Stirling, and Amr Waked. It was directed by Lasse Halstrom from a script by Simon Beafoy based on the novel by Paul Torday. McGregor’s previous work is a rich panoply that includes a heroin addict in Danny Boyle’s TRAINSPOTTING, Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars one through three, an ethically troubled would-be entrepreneur in Woody Allen’s CASSANDRA’S DREAM, and making orange look like a viable fashion choice in I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS. He is also the co-star with whom Christopher Plummer will not be sharing his Oscar for BEGINNERS.