As a kid, I read Jack London’s book, “Call of the Wild.” As a parent, I had my kids read it as part of their homeschool curriculum. As an adult movie-lover, I was really excited to hear that Disney was making a live-action movie about the book. As a writer, and a hidden fangirl, I was thrilled to accept the invitation from Disney to interview the Call of the Wild cast and screen the movie in advance. What a thrilling perk of what I get to do every day!
The Call of the Wild cast in attendance were Harrison Ford (“Jack Thornton”), Cara Gee (“Francois”) and the director, Chris Sanders. We got to interview each of them separately during round-table sessions, which are exactly what they sound like. We sit around a table and the cast sits alongside us, casually interacting with our many questions. We screen the movie in advance and ask our questions while secretly remembering how close to incredible talent.
Harrison Ford started off the three of the sessions, immediately setting everyone at ease by shaking hands and starting off the conversation. Questions were fired at him for the entire time and he never missed a beat. One thing that stuck out to us all was how spiritual he is, and by the end of the session, I wanted to take a look around me a little more on my drive home, and to plan a long trip to Grand Canyon to go white water rafting.
He shared with us how he had recently returned from a 12-day trip, long enough without his cell phone and other mobile devices to really start looking inward and realizing our real focus and purpose. “You lose the complications and slip into who you are.” He also added that resilience is a gift of nature or of God, which could be the same thing, a source of life.
Harrison was very insightful the entire interview, sharing that the experience of watching a movie in the dark with strangers helps us to find our common humanity. I’m going to say that some of his insight comes from the fact that he’s a dog person. (Dog lovers unite.)
Chris Sanders was another joy to interview. I had a lot of questions, many about the CGI effects of the dog, Buck. I was initially somewhat sad to learn that there was no real dog involved at all in the filming, which is hard to believe when you see the movie as the dog is SO real. It wasn’t long though before Chris shared the real dog from whom Buck’s looks were created, a rescue dog from Kansas whose name, coincidentally, was Buckley!
The story tugs at the heart strings. The dog in the book is a mix of two breeds, and finding a real-life version was proving to be tough. Chris’s wife eventually ran into Buckley, a mix of St. Bernard and Farm Collie, at the Kansas shelter, where for $25, he was adopted and relocated to his new home, with Chris and his family. It is Buckley’s face you see on Buck!
Without sharing any real spoilers from the movie, there’s a scene that had me near tears in the movie. (If you’ve read the book, you know it’s a tear jerker in more than once scene.) Buck is part of a team, and when Buck begins his life with Thornton, the future of the rest of the team is not made clear. The faces on the other dogs were so real, so vivid, and the scene was done so well, yet you can walk away from the movie not really understanding which way that scene went. According to Chris, when I asked if that was intentional, I learned that ended up being by design. Some viewers felt one way, some another. We were all a little sniffly as he shared further about how important it was to show the other dogs as they did….and I ended up feeling better about how I imagined the scene ending.
It’s hard being a dog lover in sad movies, right? I feel like I’m still a little raw, having lost both our furbabies in the last 14 months, and I get a little sad and anxious and want to save all the animals in all the movies. This one was no different.
Cara Gee entered the room like a bright light. She’s pregnant with their first child and was positively radiant. As an indigenous woman, it was important for her to portray her role as Francois, a dog sled co-driver for the mail team with her partner, Perrault, so important that a cultural advisor was brought on board. That advisor’s grandmother was an actual dog sledder back in the 20s! The things she learned help enrich her experience while ensuring the accuracy of her behavior of a strong woman in an active role in an entirely different world.
If you’ve seen the trailer of the movie, you’ve seen some scary scenes take place. Cara filled us in on places where they were actually in a storage container in Santa Clarita (in an ice scene) and how an avalanche scene was filmed entirely inside an empty room, requiring someone to be in front of them saying “Okay, look to your left and be terrified!” and “Okay, lean to your right..” and so forth. Once you see the scene, you will be surprised to see how believable it is!
As we took photos with her after, I got a brief moment to speak with her. I mentioned how beautiful she looked and she told me she felt like a marshmallow as her maternity dress was all white with flouncy sleeves. I only wish I had looked that great while pregnant, and her style is spot-on.
The movie is a wild ride with a beautiful message, and you don’t realize until later that while Thornton is seemingly saving Buck, Buck is also saving Thornton. Buck’s being led to his new life, giving Thornton a new focus and the option to do a great thing while realizing that life goes on after a great loss. I saw it all as Buck rebounding after a rough start, having happened upon someone who will get him to where he needs to go. Thornton hands him off to his new life after a beautiful and mostly willful adventure. All animals should be as loved as Buck, even though Thornton won’t admit it, and Buck gets to be who he was meant to be all along. Don’t we all wish for that?
The Call of the Wild cast includes a few other people, including Dan Stevens and Omar Sy, both who put in fun performances of two completely opposite characters. Bradley Whitford even makes an appearance in the beginning of the movie.
Catch up with the trailer here if you haven’t seen it yet, and let me know what you think! It makes a great family film and will surely generate some fabulous parent-child discussions. Enjoy!