We attended the movie screening and junket to facilitate this post. All opinions, typos and grammatical errors are our own.
By Lorena Alvarez
Thank you, Twentieth Century Studios for having me at the Press Junket of Call of the Wild. The talent that graciously spoke to us in an intimate roundtable setting was none other than the legendary and iconic Harrison Ford (John Thornton), Chris Sanders (Director), and Cara Gee (Francoise)
A childhood favorite novel turned into a live-action film is just as nostalgic as it gets. Throw in Harrison Ford, incredible CGI, a great cast and you get this epic film
The Call of the Wild is a live-action adventure based on Jack London's literary classic 1903 novel. The film is narrated by Harrison Ford, who’s voice has the right amount of ruggedness to fit the theme. Set in the Alaskan Yukon during the 1890s Gold Rush, the film follows Buck, a gentle giant St. Bernard/Barn Collie dog who is stolen from his pampered life in sunny California and sold off to work as a sled dog in Alaska.
After Buck is suddenly taken from his master, he quickly learns the cruelty of humans. The dognapers who stole him beat him with a club to get him to comply.
Upon arriving to Alaska, Buck makes a brief escape and crosses paths with John Thornton (Harrison Ford). They make a quick but meaningful connection when Buck returns Thornton’s lost harmonica to him. Buck is shortly found by the dog traders and sold off to a couple (Omar Sy and Cara Gee) who train him to become part of the mail delivery dog sled team. He wins over the team with his big-heart and replaces leader of the pack, Spitz after defeating him in a fight
As Buck starts to embrace and flourish in his new life, he gets taken again and sold to the cruel Charles (Dan Stevens). Charles puts Buck and his team of dogs in danger with his treasure-obsessed plan. John Thornton comes across Buck again and remembers their connection. Thornton rescues Buck from his vile master and Buck rescues him right back.
Thornton is a man living with a tough past who is unable to cope without the assistance of alcohol. Buck guides him into the adventure of a lifetime which helps him manage and work through his hurtful past.
Thornton and Buck travel through the most beautiful terrain and have an incredible journey. Along the way, Buck and Thornton transform into who they are destined to be. Thornton never considers himself as Buck’s master and encourages him to find his own calling. They find an abandoned cabin and spend the summer living there while they explore the area and find an abundance of gold.
Buck eventually finds his call to the wild where his strength, kindness, and loyalty get him an invitation to join a pack of wolves. He is reluctant to leave Thornton behind for this new pack until (spoiler) villainous Charles returns and murders Thornton. Buck is finally his own master and together with his wolf partner, they create a new breed in the wild.
The Call of the Wild is a moving and exhilarating film which inspires adventure.
Ford was credited by director Sanders for developing more of a back story and the character of John Thornton. Director Sanders says, “Harrison really brought a ton to the party. In the book, Thornton goes through certain situations with Buck, but I don’t think his character is super well defined. And I think one of the wonderful things that Harrison did throughout this whole process was he was able to find that character, create that character. And really define what it was going to be. From the very beginning, he and I would have these very deep discussions about his character.” From these conversations, Ford understood that his character’s place in the story was to redeem humanity in the eyes of Buck, after his experience with an abusive owner.
“I was given the liberty to establish a parallel in Buck and Thornton’s lives to find their destiny,” says Ford at The Call of the Wild Press Junket.
Ford spoke about the role and the approach actors should take in films, “Be useful to the telling of the story. It’s not about you, it’s about the story.”
The film gives you an appreciation of the beautiful nature that our planet has to offer. “In nature is where you can find value in the experience of being present,” says Ford at the junket. Ford reminds himself of this valuable awareness and most recently took a 12-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon with no phone or access to anyone. Losing touch is what sparks that consciousness for him.
The film used CGI to create Buck, but in its physical place was Terry Notary, a motion specialist and movement choreographer. Ford spent most of his time with Notary and at first found it odd to caress a grown man’s face as if it was a dog. Ford quickly adapted and praised Notary for making it seem as if he really was a dog.
“When we were filming and we would see him in our peripheral vision we would forget that he was not a dog, that’s how great of an actor he is,” says Cara Gee (Francoise) of Notary.
Gee felt a responsibility to correctly portray an indigenous woman of that time and worked with a cultural advisor. As an indigenous woman herself, she feels a sense of pride to be starring in this feature film. Now, as an expecting mother the representation of an indigenous woman on a film of this scale takes on a deeper meaning for Gee.
This role was very physically demanding. I had to get scuba diver certification and worked with a former Navy Seal to train for the scenes,” says Gee of the underwater scenes shot in the film.
Director Sanders describes the film’s combination of live action and animation as magical. Magical was a word that Gee used to describe what is was like to work with Director Sanders.
“Simplicity us strength,” says Sanders about the clear message he was hoping to get across to the viewers. “We want to give them something to hold on to and be inspired by. That after surprises and the unexpected you can navigate to pick yourself back up.”
The film does exactly that as it takes you on an adventure that will inspire you to look beyond your reality and further embrace the beauty in the natural world.
Call of the Wild
Website and Mobile site: callofthewildmovie.com
Get ready for an amazing adventure. See Call of the Wild in theatres February 21!