Salmon Fishing In The Yemen - Ewan McGregor interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
EWAN McGregor talks about some of the challenges of making Salmon Fishing in The Yemen, including perfecting a variation on his Scottish accent.
He also talks about returning to the Highlands for the first time since Trainspotting, attracting age appropriate roles and why he feels the love story element of the film is something everyone can relate to. He was speaking at a UK press conference for the film.
Q. It’s been suggested that you used a very effective prissy Scottish accent in the film. I wonder if you could you tell us why you used that specific accent?
Ewan McGregor: Fred’s 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 Beaufoy, the writer of the screenplay, because I found it really difficult 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] it’s perfect for Fred. It was one of the things that made me realise I was in such good hands with you [indicates Emily] the first time we met. I’d met Simon and I read some of the scenes with the accent and some without and I just couldn’t decide. It seemed like it’s such an unromantic accent [laughs]. I thought regardless of how Fred is at the beginning of the script, he is sort of the romantic lead of the film and can it work with that accent? So, when we met in rehearsal room, Emily said: “Well, let’s hear it!” So, we read a scene with the accent and without and she went: “You’ve GOT to do the accent!”
It was a leap. I needed the support of my fellow actor there to help convince me to do it. I had an old, distant relation called Betty Burnside who spoke like that but every now and again she would slip and she’d go, [slips into much thicker accent] “Oh I dinnae ken,” [laughs]. So, I called my secretary in the film Betty Burnside in remembrance of old Betty.
Q. In the book 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: Not really. I felt that we could have aged me up, there was some talk of putting silver in my hair. But I felt that we could achieve his up-tightness with the acting and with also – I have to say it wasn’t important to me to make him older. Now great fans of the book might think that’s a mistake but I think it’s possible to achieve the same effect. There are people who are younger than I who are more uptight that I am. It’s not necessarily an age thing. I mean nobody is offering me 20-year old leads any more, but like you said I’m in my 40s, so it’s kind of natural that would be the case.
Q. Did you have any knowledge of the Scottish locations? And as the only Scot in the principal cast did you feel like being the tour guide for people when you were up there?
Ewan McGregor: No, we didn’t have that much time. But it was lovely to be up there. I love being back in Scotland for a start and I love working there. I made a film a couple of years ago called Perfect Sense in Glasgow and I’ve never enjoyed that city more in my life. Being up in the Highlands, I think it was the first time I’d shot in the Highlands since the Highland scene in Trainspotting, so it’s been a long time and it was gorgeous and it was lovely for all of us. Paul [producer Paul Webster] put all of the actors up in a hunting lodge, a rather splendid house with nice grounds and everything. All of the cast were there – after work we would all hang out and there was a little pond where we could fish, it was just really nice for all of us to do that. Nicest for all was Hamish who played the butler, he had the day off and Kristin Scott Thomas had the day off so he spent the whole day going around the Highlands with her. I don’t think he could believe his luck!
Q. How easy was it to play the love story, given that part of the audience may be rooting for the relationship with the soldier boyfriend?
Ewan McGregor: [Laughs] Don’t be ridiculous! Well that was the beauty of the love story, that it was complicated. I think what Simon did really beautifully was that, in the book Fred’s wife is really quite awful and Simon made it more complicated by making her not a nightmare, it’s just a sad marriage and we feel for her also. I think that’s really a mark of great writing that we have sympathy for her as well.
Q. The film seems to be about believing the unbelievable and making it happen. Is there anything that has happened to you that you thought would never happen but you’ve achieved it? Is it faith or good luck?
Ewan 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 have to do and I like that, where you just don’t know until the camera turns then half an hour later, you’re walking back going: “Oh, that was alright.” That can happen a lot.
- Read our review
- Ewan McGregor interview
- Emily Blunt and Paul Webster (producer) interview
- Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Photo Gallery