Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Make the improbable possible.

Emily as: Harriet
Genre(s): Drama | Comedy | Romance
Written by: Simon Beaufoy, Paul Torday (novel)
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Other Cast: Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Tom Mison
Release Date: March 9, 2012
Production Budget: $14.5m
Total Worldwide Gross: $34.5m
Filming Locations: Scotland, UK and Morocco

From the director of Chocolat and the Oscar-winning® screenwriter of Slumdog Millionaire comes the inspirational comedy Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. When Britain’s leading fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor) is approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) to help realize a sheikh’s (Amr Waked) vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert, he immediately thinks the project is both absurd and unachievable. But when the Prime Minister’s overzealous press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) latches on to it as a “good will” story, 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.

Production Info

  • Ewan McGregor had to learn the art of fly fishing for his role as Dr. Alfred Jones.
  • The khanjar or jambiyya (the curved daggers carried in the belt by many of the Yemenis in the movie) are the Omani style; typically in Yemen the sheath is much narrower and highly curved at the tip. Also, normally they are only worn at formal occasions with national dress – similar to sgian dubh in Scotland.
  • The salmon are delivered to the project in tanks slung under Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters. US (military) helicopter manufacturers tend to name aircraft after American Native tribes, in this case the Chinook people of Pacific Northwest region of the United States. However, the Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is also a species of salmon.
  • Character Quotes

  • Don’t do this and then forget me. I just don’t wanna be an army barracks joke in the morning. Please be nice to me.
  • May I present Sheikh Muhammed bin Zaidi bani Tihama. This is Dr Jones.
  • [Toasts] To faith and fish.
  • Look, I’m not coming into work, all right, because I need to stay here. I need to be here in case there’s news. So, actually, anyone with a shred of understanding… or humanity, or simple feeling, who, frankly, wasn’t suffering from some kind of Asperger’s, would know that the last thing that I need is your bullying little phone call asking me to come into work so that you can update me on fish. You want to fill me in on fishing. Well, Dr Jones, you can take your work and you can shove it up your unfeeling arse.
  • My father is ex-Army, so he’s like very stiff upper lip and don’t make a fuss about anything, but I’m more of a gusher. I think that’s his word for me, anyway. My upper lip’s never been very stiff, I’m afraid.
  • Do you sometimes think that maybe we’re just part of a lavish practical joke?
  • Harriet: Hello.
    Robert: Hi. It’s great to see you.
    Harriet: Yes. Me, too. Sorry.
    Robert: Yes?
    Harriet: Yes.
    Robert: You, too. [Harriet laughs] No, “yes” is a start, that’s fine.
    Harriet: Stop, I’m so nervous. Um…
    Robert: Why are you nervous?
    Harriet: I don’t know. I’m trying to be very sophisticated and grown-up.
  • [Harriet and Robert kiss]
    Harriet: Oh, my God, I don’t do this. I don’t do this.
    Robert: No, I can tell.
    Harriet: I haven’t done this in a really long time.
    Robert: Okay.
    Harriet: I’m so shy.
    Robert: Okay. No, I’ll sleep on the sofa.
    Harriet: Oh, I’m so shy.
    Robert: Look, Harriet, I mean it. I…
    Harriet: Shup up. [Laughing]
    Robert: You were saying. You’re shy.
    Harriet: I am shy and quiet. Like Hitler. I’m serious.
  • Harriet: Doctor Jones?
    Alfred: Er, Miss Chetwode-Talbot is expecting me.
    Harriet: Yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful. Do call me Harriet.
  • Alfred: Now you’re going to tell me it isn’t hot in the Yemen, too, aren’t you?
    Harriet: Well, in the mountainous areas the night-time temperatures get down to well below 20 Celsius. And, of course, I defer to your expert knowledge, Dr Jones, but I do believe that Pacific salmon get as far south as California. Temperatures are not too dissimilar there.
  • Alfred: I was wondering about you and me. The theoretical possibility in the same way as a manned mission to Mars is a theoretical possibility. Obviously.
    Harriet: Or salmon fishing in the Yemen.
    Alfred: Uh-huh.
    Harriet: Yes.
    Alfred: Yes?
    Harriet: Yes. I just need a little time.
  • Quoting: Emily Blunt

    On learning Chinese: I had a very nice Chinese lady, teacher who came around to my flat and she had translated it from the script. The script just had it in English but it simply said in brackets: she speaks this in fluent Chinese. And I was like, “Okay, so I have to learn Mandarin at some point.” And Lasse was incredibly laid back about the idea and I was like, “No, no, we shoot this in two weeks. It’s going to take me some time. We should probably learn this.” And he went, “Ah yes ,we should probably get on this.” Just so laid back. So this woman came around and I learned it phonetically. So I know nothing about how to say hello, how are you but I do know how to talk about salmon.

    On her attraction to the role: I got sent the script and they said if you like it, they really want you to do it. Is asked, “What’s it called?” And I was a bit baffled by the title. My agent just said it’s so special, beautiful and very original. It’s just an intriguing title. It is odd. But you know what, you read a lot of generic scripts with fairly unoriginal dialogue and ideas within it. So it’s a lovely thing when one is not that. There’s no other film like it, really. It’s such a ludicrous, far-fetched idea. And to have this slow-burning romance within it is great. It’s an endlessly surprising film. In this day and age when most films are derivative of other movies, it’s really nice that this isn’t.

    On the writing: It’s perfect writing. It’s that British humour that I really love, full of charm and real wit, and it’s actually how people speak to each other. Nothing was on the nose, it was all suppressed. The love story was more of a gently arcing friendship. I love that you see a relationship blossom, rather than just, in the first scene, people are dropping drawers and getting at it.

    On working with Ewan McGregor: We had such a blast. It was just heaven working with him. He’s the best guy, the best scene partner and a very generous actor. You work with a lot of people who just work in their close-up. It’s lovely when you have someone who just wants to play the scene and explore every single avenue that the scene has to offer. That’s the fun of it, to keep it spontaneous and fresh.

    On working with Lasse Hallström: Lasse is incredibly collaborative and I think he’s very open and I think he’s willing to let you find it and you play with it. I think he works quite similarly to how Ewan and I like to work which was a relief, that he likes to keep things fresh and spontaneous. So going into a scene, how it was on the page usually wasn’t how it ended up when we started doing it and that’s a real joy when you can stretch a scene around and make it and go down different little paths that you didn’t expect. Lasse is really a quirky dude. He’s really odd in the most wonderful way and I don’t know if I still can get a read on him because he always plays the part of the buffoon and he’s always making silly jokes and tripping himself up to make us laugh. It’s like he plays the part of a clown to diminish his position on set. I think he wants to be part of the gang. He doesn’t want to be seen to be the one with all the answers because I think he likes to see them unravel for themselves.

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Co-star Ewan McGregor: It’s not a question of getting together and saying, “Okay. How are we going to have chemistry?” You just either get on or you don’t and in my experience I suppose because of the way I and most people go about this, you’re all excited to be making the film and you know what your part is and the job you need to do. If you are working with someone who is as fun as Emily Blunt, it’s easy. She had me laughing for like three months.

    Critical Response

    Scott Bowles, USA Today: Blunt, who plays the sheik’s representative, Harriet, gives the strongest performance, particularly when she’s wrestling with her attraction to Alfred and her concern over her boyfriend of three weeks (Tom Mison), a soldier who has gone MIA in Afghanistan.

    Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Some might object to the Chocolat sweetness Hallström brings to the unlikely romance between the married Dr. Jones and the engaged Ms. Chetwode-Talbot. But McGregor and Blunt have charm to spare and the no-bull instinct to cut to the heart of a scene. In the Dead Sea of Hollywood formula, their film is a distinct delight, brimming over with spirit and surprise.

    Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: As she did last year in The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon, Blunt finds an easygoing rhythm with her leading man here, with Harriet’s catlike self-possession thoroughly unnerving the more introverted, ill-at-ease Alfred.

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Emily has received for her role in the film.

    NOMINATED: Golden Globes – Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical)