Despite its exotic title, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is a meet-cute, opposites-attract, feel-good British rom-com. Emily Blunt plays Harriet, the London rep of a fabulously wealthy Yemeni sheik and fly-fishing fanatic. On a whim, he gets Harriet to recruit a reluctant fisheries expert, Fred (Ewan McGregor), to export Scottish salmon to the sheik’s homeland. Harriet and Fred’s budding romance seems nearly as impossible as shipping live fish to the desert: Fuddy-duddy Fred is married to a chilly workaholic; Harriet adores a dashing officer on a secret foreign mission. How can the pair ever stop fussing long enough to lock lips? Well, for one thing, they are Blunt and McGregor and virtually irresistible to mere mortals.
We recently talked to the charming “Young Victoria” star — and wife of John Krasinski — about “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” and romancing scene-stealer McGregor onscreen:
Thelma Adams: “Yemen” is a textbook case of opposites attracting.
Emily Blunt: I think that happens a lot in life. Opposites attract. When you’re given a task that you deem impossible, like Fred and Harriet are, life is surprising, and people are complex. That’s what the film deals with: how much you can be shaped and shifted by experiences.
TA: What are we to make of Harriet and Fred?
EB: At the beginning, they are an odd couple. They are so vastly different. I don’t think they find each other easy to be around. And then you see the shell start to evaporate, and they allow each other to open up and reveal parts of themselves that they haven’t shown others before. That happens quite often — the connection. It’s surprising. When it comes to most relationships, you felt like you’ve known him forever. When I met my husband, that’s how I felt.
TA: Who’s the funniest in real life, you or John?
EB: John. He’s spooky funny. He’s the funniest person you will ever meet. He’s the funniest person I’ve ever met. He won me over with that.
TA: What do you consider a great date night?
EB: My favorite date night was when we stayed in and watched five episodes of “Homeland” on Showtime on Demand.
TA: That’s not quite the romantic fantasy you project in “Young Victoria” or “The Adjustment Bureau,” but I can totally relate. What drew you to this role in particular?
EB: I really wanted to play someone so hopeful, who perseveres. She’s going through something very complex, yet she’s valiant and she listens and she’s warm. I’ve wanted to play someone like that for a while. I usually try and play someone with some kind of warmth, but there was no edge here. She was very bubbly and kind and very pure — and that was a slightly different angle.
TA: Did you travel to Yemen for the shoot?
EB: We went to Morocco to a place called Ouarzazate, where they shoot every desert scene. It still has some decrepit old camels from “Lawrence of Arabia” still wandering around.
TA: One thing that I found unintentionally funny about “Salmon Fishing” was seeing a frumpy Ewan McGregor in a cardigan. Did the filmmakers really think that would make him less hot?
EB: Well, they had to do something! They gave Ewan a side parting. I remember he was really upset about the hair. He’s such a nerd, but I told him, “Don’t worry.” Ewan even shines through with a nerdy sweater and a haircut. You could see the panic in his eyes building.
TA: In the scene at the sheik’s estate, when Fred overhears Harriet sobbing and he enters her room to comfort her in the middle of the night, suddenly his hair has this rumpled sexy look despite his old-man robe and pajamas.
EB: [laughs] As the movie went on, as Fred’s life loosened up, his hair loosens up, too. By the desert scene he has this Calvin Klein-model hair. He has the most remarkable hair, thick, straight, the fact that they had to practically duct tape it down…. You can’t have a knight in shining armor with a side parting. He has to look a bit bed-heady.
TA: And McGregor keeps his drawers on in this movie for a change.
EB: There are no willie shots in this one. Ewan’s the best. I love that dude. He’s my friend now. We had a whale of a time on the film and decided to stay friends.
TA: Besides a great friendship, what was your take-away from this film? Reach for the impossible?
EB: I want people to walk away and feel a bit surprised and happy that they’ve come around full circle. It’s a wonderfully feel-good movie. It’s all heart, this film.
TA: By the way, do you have any secret talents?
EB: I can play the cello. I’ve played it since I was young. I used to be better when I was a teenager. Then when I was 16, I thought it was better to have a social life. I’m not as good as I used to be.
TA: But you have a much better social life, Mrs. Krasinski, friend of McGregor. Next up, you star with Jason Segel in “The Five-Year Engagement,” which is opening the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18. What is your theory of engagement?
EB: Always keep it short.