Dispatch: Cinema Society Screening of Salmon Fishing in The Yemen

March 09, 2012 | by —Jeffrey Slonim | Homepage

Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor

Could there be any possible connection between the new fly-fishing flick Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (CBS Films) and Yves Saint Laurent’s exotic Opium eau? Yes, in fact, there could. Saint Laurent spent much time at his fabulous palace in Morocco and the film was shot in that North African country, albeit a rocky desert region resembling Yemen.

Dispatches had never actually smelled Opium until the Yves Saint Laurent-sponsored screening of the film at the Crosby Street Hotel on Thursday. Though Opium is a woman’s scent, it is deliciously sweet and masculine, not unlike the film’s story of a sheik from Yemen who decides he wants to dam up a river so that he and his people can fly-fish for salmon in Yemen—a quixotic task with a price tag ended by many, many zeros.

According to Simon Beaufoy, the author of the script, based on a beloved British book, “The Yemen” is how the country was known on old maps. It is now simply “Yemen.” Learn something new every day.       

Meanwhile, the charming and talented Emily Blunt had to learn Mandarin for the film, “which is a pretty big skill,” she told Dispatches at the Cinema Society screening. "I don’t know how to talk about anything else in Mandarin but salmon,” indicated Blunt. “But I do know how to do that.” Apparently, Blunt’s Mandarin teacher rattled off her lines with such speed that Blunt told her, “God, we’re just going to have to go at an idiot's pace."   

  >>See more photos from the screening and afterparty

To play the “fishery specialist” who’s tasked with transferring 10,000 Scottish salmon to the Yemen desert, Ewan McGregor had some research of his own to do. Of learning to cast a fly rod, McGregor commented, “It can be quite difficult.” The Scottish actor added that in his home country, where the film was partly shot, gamekeepers, hunters, and fishers are referred to as “gillies.” “Our fly-fisherman teacher up there was Billy—Billy the Gillie,” said McGregor.      

If you don’t completely buy the love story, which turns on a dime, you will fall in love with the Scottish countryside and Yemen (really the Moroccan outback), which was somewhat less hospitable than Scotland, to the salmon at least.   

The fly-fishing sheik invites McGregor and Blunt to stay at his monumental country estate, which, after a bit of research, turns out to be, at least for the stately exterior shots, Ardverikie Estate on Loch Laggan in Scotland, where one can actually rent a house or, if the timing is right, get married.       

“It’s a rather famous stately home up there next to a beautiful loch,” McGregor told Dispatches. If anyone plans a wedding there, please invite moi.         

Also spotted: Helena Christensen, Patricia Clarkson, who sat on a couch gabbing with Blunt for ages, Greta Gerwig, Carlos Leon, Debbie Harry, and Vanessa von Bismarck, preggers with her second child, as well as an equally pregnant Julia Restoin Roitfeld.  

And at the Grey Goose Cherry Noir-fueled cocktail afterparty, the Cinema Society not only passed out Opium, they also served—wait for it—smoked SALMON blini with caviar, as well as dates wrapped in bacon with blue cheese.

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