Harrison Ford always had “dog company” in his life, so he had ample canine inspiration to voice the first animated role of his career, a no-nonsense farm dog in the sequel “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” The filmmakers, though, wanted something a little bit more personal.
“I asked them if they wanted me to do a dog voice,” says Ford, 76, a fan of the first film. “And they said, ‘We’d prefer you to actually just use your own voice.’ I was surprised by that. I thought, ‘This is too easy.’ ”
After decades of being a Hollywood legend, the “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” actor’s career has finally gone to the dogs: In “Pets 2” (in theaters Friday), Ford voices Rooster, who suffers no fools and helps metropolitan Jack Russell terrier Max (Patton Oswalt, taking on the role after Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct scandal) overcome his fears.
Ford is also surrounded by pooches – albeit photorealistic, cutting-edge computer-generated ones instead of the real deal – starring as a prospector in the gold rush who meets man’s best friend in his next film “The Call of the Wild” (Feb. 21, 2020), based on the classic Jack London book. Plus, he puts on the iconic fedora again to play the hero nicknamed for the beloved Jones family dog in Steven Spielberg’s fifth “Indiana Jones” movie (July 9, 2021).
But Ford also has a woof pack at home: brother and sister “terrier-type” rescues Juno and January, fostered by wife Calista Flockhart after they were living in a pet store, and Mugs, the pug their housekeeper found on the street more than a decade ago.
Ford talks with USA TODAY about all things dog and what animal he won’t be bringing home soon:
Question: Were you an animal lover as a kid?
Harrison Ford: My father was in advertising, and one of his accounts was Lincoln Park Zoo and the (TV show) “Zoo Parade” with Marlin Perkins. So I would go with him every weekend and Marlin Perkins would take me around, show me different animals and walk me backstage through the exhibits. I was a city boy growing up in Chicago, and I just had a real interest in and affinity for the creatures of the natural world.
Q: What do you remember about your first dog?
Ford: We didn’t have a dog until we moved out of Chicago and into the suburbs, so I was about 12. Our first dog was Lady and we had three or four dogs growing up, all rescues. I’ve never owned anything (else). And I’ve never had a cat – the first Mrs. Ford (Mary Marquardt) had a cat, but I don’t like cats.
Q: In the movie, Rooster tells Max that dogs sleep outside on the farm. Do you take that approach with your own pets?
Ford: (Laughs) They sleep on our bed, actually. I wish I could control things the way Rooster does, but no. In my house, my wife thinks it’s cruel and unusual punishment not to have them in bed with us.
Q: You sort of won the Super Bowl this year co-starring with a Boston terrier in an Amazon ad. What’s the trick to working with a dog onscreen?
Ford: Teaching them English. Once you get past that, it’s pretty easy. Actually, with trained movie dogs, I think the best thing is not to talk to them. (Laughs) Let the trainer do it. The instinct is to try and make friends with the dog, and it just confuses the dog. They’re working dogs and they are rewarded for their work in a very specific way. Their pro handlers are the ones who are the magic. Actors just screw things up often.
Q: With “The Call of the Wild,” what was it like being a dog person doing a dog movie without actual dogs?
Ford: The part of the dog was played by a very wonderful (motion-capture) actor named Terry Notary, but that meant that I was rolling around on the floor, scratching him behind the ears and stuff like that. That’s kind of weird. But he was very good. He does a lot of work in “Planet of the Apes,” and he’s a former Cirque du Soleil performer and a gymnast. He was able to replicate the movements and behaviors of Buck in a way that was really useful.
Q: Is the new Indy film next on your docket?
Ford: “Indiana Jones” is likely to be the next project. We’re meant to start at the beginning of next year and I’m looking forward to working with Steven again.
Q: At least you have your dogs to keep you in shape until then.
Ford: (Laughs) At least.