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Harrison Ford Goes for Gold in 'The Call of the Wild'

Actor discusses his starring role in Jack London's classic adventure

Harrison Ford in Call of the Wild
Twentieth Century Fox

Harrison Ford tells AARP about the ideas behind his 1890s Gold Rush–era film, The Call of the Wild (out Feb. 21), his beloved dogs and his plans to retire — not anytime soon.

The difference between Indiana Jones and The Call of the Wild hero John Thornton

Thornton's not an action hero. He's a troubled human being who struggles with his human nature while Buck, his dog, is struggling with the natural world — he goes from domestication to the wild.

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The difference between the 1903 Jack London novel and the film

In the book, Thornton is just an instrument of the plot, there to accompany the dog — we do not learn much about him. We explore what brought him to the Yukon. He goes to find not gold but himself, and soon after the loss of his son, with whom he would have gone on the adventure that he and Buck embark on.

Harrison Ford
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Ford’s Fast Facts

Age: 77

Birthplace: Chicago

First famous film: American Graffiti (1973)

Breakout hit: Star Wars (1977)

Biggest hits: Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Presumed Innocent, Blade Runner

Oscar nomination: Best Actor, Witness (1985)

Preferred diet: Vegetables, fish, no dairy, no meat

Next blockbuster: Steven Spielberg’s fifth Indiana Jones film (2021)

On his computer-generated dog costar

The dog was represented during filming by a Cirque du Soleil gymnast, a talented [motion-capture] actor named Terry Notary. It gave me a chance to establish an emotional relationship with the dog. It worked for me. We keep it on the realistic side.

A furry story — but not warm and fuzzy

It's got edges on it. It shows people in stressful situations, animals in stressful situations. There is a human death that is going to take some emotional energy for a young child and their parents to talk about.

Ford, at 77, is playing a role that Clark Gable played at 34, Charlton Heston at 48, and Rutger Hauer at 52

Our health has changed considerably since Clark Gable's time. Someone of my age might have retired for health reasons and not lived as long as I've been lucky enough to live.

Why play opposite a dog?

I have grandkids; I have dogs [terriers Juno and January and pug Mugs, who sleep on his bed]. My wife [Calista Flockhart] is one of the biggest dog lovers who ever lived. I've had a relationship with dogs all my life. There seemed no good reason not to do this movie.

When he plans to retire

I don't see any reason to stop as long as my presence is tolerated. And I still love what I'm doing and find it challenging and engaging. So I'll stop when I don't feel good anymore.