On Movies: For Blunt, 'Salmon Fishing' a fun catch

'Chemistry is a strange thing," Emily Blunt says, and she's not talking about the periodic table.

"You either have it or you don't. And I do think it translates onto screen when you have a great rapport with someone offscreen."

That someone is Ewan McGregor - a fellow Brit and Blunt's leading man in the whimsical romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The two stars had never crossed paths before - not even a howdy-do at a party or premiere - when Lasse Hallström, the film's director, put them together.

"There's a risk involved," Blunt says. "Hopefully, we'd get along, and we'd work well together and there would be a good spark between us."

If not, Salmon Fishing - which opened Friday - might not have flown. Or swum upstream.

Blunt gets to play a hard-charging London marketing exec whose serious beau has gone off to fight with the troops in Afghanistan. McGregor is a rumpled fisheries department bureaucrat. He's a keen angler (he even has a special fly named after him) and is in a rather torpid marriage with a workaholic businesswoman. Blunt and McGregor's characters meet when an Arab sheikh (Amr Waked) offers huge amounts of money for a project to stock a Yemeni river with salmon from the British Isles.

Never mind the climate, or the terrain, or the ecological and economic impact of such a wild scheme - the sheikh wants to do it. And the British government (represented by Kristin Scott Thomas) wants it done.

Blunt, last seen as a ballet dancer caught up in Franz Kafka-meets-Philip K. Dick intrigue with Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau, read the Salmon screenplay and loved it.

"It was unusual - there was something vibrant and fun about it." And then Blunt's mother told her about the book the screenplay came from: the novel of the same name by Paul Torday.

"When I called her to say that I thought I was going to do the movie, she knew all about the book and she went on and on," Blunt recalls. "It's very character-rich, and that's always a big draw, when it's about that as opposed to special effects or something."

Salmon Fishing was filmed about a year and a half ago, in London, Scotland, and Morocco. The North African land doubles for the Yemen.

"I don't know if they wanted the gamble of shooting in the Yemen," Blunt quips. "The civil war wasn't exactly a draw for an insurance company."

Blunt, who is married to The Office star John Krasinski, was in Philadelphia to promote her film just days after the 84th Academy Awards, and she expressed relief that she wasn't among the nominees who'd been spending the previous three months selling themselves, and their films, to the media and Academy members. Blunt and her husband watched the Oscar ceremonies at home and then went to a "losers party" hosted by her friend "Clooney" later in the evening.

"It's funny, I know a few people who have gone through the whole awards thing this season, and seeing them at that party afterward, they all look so relieved that it's over," she notes.

"Because it's a meat market, it's a frenzy, it is nonstop campaigning, and I think everyone feels a bit filthy at the end of it, as if they've gotten self-promotion overload.

"Everyone I've spoken to who's been through it says the same thing: 'Thank God, no more dresses, no more hair and makeup!'"

After filming Salmon Fishing, Blunt went on a serious professional tear, shooting four pictures in quick succession.

They are:

Your Sister's Sister, directed by Humpday's Lynn Shelton. "It's a tiny little independent film which I shot in 12 days. I did it right after Salmon Fishing, we shot it in Seattle. . . . We improvised the whole thing." Mark Duplass, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mike Birbiglia also star.

Looper, "which is Ryan Johnson's next film, he did Brick. It's a fantastic, tight thriller, a really cool, complex movie. And that's with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt."

The Five-Year Engagement, "a massive comedy with Jason Segel - really bawdy, and really funny." The Five-Year Engagement, which is literally that - a movie about a couple whose wedding keeps getting put off, and off again - opens the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18.

Arthur Newman, "which I just finished . . . . It's another small movie, with Colin Firth, a really strange, quirky movie, a dark comedy. It's about these two social outcasts who are trying to escape their very miserable lives by taking on new identities, and they go on this crazy road trip across America, and they're both rather lost. They're like the ultimate odd couple."


"I don't know what I'm doing next," Blunt confesses. "I think I overdid it last year. . . . I think I'm going to reel it in for a little bit."


Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.