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There’s something fishy about Ewan McGregor

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Scenic shot: Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor star in “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” a new film based on a novel by Paul Torday. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Scenic shot: Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor star in “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” a new film based on a novel by Paul Torday.

Ewan McGregor is not your typical movie star.

He impressed local audiences last year when, even though his plane was late, he made it to the Castro Theatre in time for the question-and-answer session after the screening of “Beginners,” the opening movie of the San Francisco International Film Festival (in which he starred).

Even though he could have easily, and understandably, blown off the evening, he grabbed a cab — all by himself, with no handlers or assistants — and made it to the event.

Recently back in The City to promote his new movie “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” which opens Friday, he apologizes as he digs, without irony, into a plate of bagels, capers and, yes, smoked salmon.

“I haven’t had breakfast yet,” he says.

 Aside from glamour and strange hours, his life as a movie star includes missing his wife and four daughters while he makes movies around the world.

“I’d love to be an artist,” says McGregor, 40. “I think there must be nothing nicer than getting up in the morning, taking your kids to school, and then coming back, putting your overalls on in your workshop. I fantasize about things that keep me at home.”

For “Salmon Fishing,” McGregor went to Morocco. He had been there twice before, for “Black Hawk Down” with director Ridley Scott, and also for Bill Forsyth’s “Being Human,” in which he spoke his first line in a feature film.

“I was there for a month to deliver that one line,” says McGregor, who noticed how the region has become a “little Hollywood in the desert.”

Based on a novel by Paul Torday, “Salmon Fishing” is about a woman (Emily Blunt) who, as a representative of a wealthy Yemeni sheik, hires a fisheries scientist (McGregor) to figure out a way to transport salmon to the desert so the sheik can indulge his passion for fly-fishing.

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty,” “Slumdog Millionaire”), who tried fly-fishing, calls it “incredibly simple. There’s not even a reel. There’s just a rod and a fly and some nylon. It becomes an extremely meditative process, right on the line between hope and faith.”

McGregor, of course, practiced as well. He says, “It’s a very beautiful thing to do. The actual standing in the river and doing this repetitive, artful movement is very nice.”

But he adds that the actual pursuit doesn’t particularly interest him: “ The one thing I don’t have to be a good fisherman is the desire to catch a fish.”

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Starring Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked

Written by
Simon Beaufoy

Directed by
Lasse Hallström

Rated PG-13

Running time
1 hour, 47 minutes