Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser Go to Extraordinary Measures
- Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Considering the wide range of iconic characters (Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan) Harrison Ford has played over the course of his 40-year acting career, even Ford likes to switch things up—and keep people guessing—every once in a while.
And for Ford, signing up for Extraordinary Measures, both as an actor and executive producer, was a welcome opportunity to "try something new."
Inspired by true events that Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Geeta Anand wrote about in a Wall Street Journal article, and later in a book titled The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million—and Bucked the Medical Establishment—in a Quest to Save His Children, Ford was captivated by the courageousness of the Crowleys, a loving family facing a particularly grim future with two children diagnosed with Pompe, a degenerative disease that typically occurs once in about every 40,000-300,000 births.
"When we (Ford, along with business partners Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher) were looking for material to develop for movies that I could be in, we immediately thought this would be a good idea for a movie after reading the story in the Wall Street Journal and the follow-up," Ford shares. "It's something I wouldn't normally be involved in, but I loved what the story said about personal courage, initiative, parents' love and the power to overcome extraordinarily difficult circumstances. I knew if we could wrestle this into the shape of a movie, then we would be bringing a story to the screen that would enrich people's lives."
Living with Pompe
Before the Crowleys (John is portrayed by Brendan Fraser, his wife Aileen is played by Keri Russell) learn about the experimental medicine that an unconventional scientist, Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford) has been working on, the prognosis for their young children wasn't exactly promising.
Not only is Pompe so rare that there isn't treatment, let alone a cure for it, but symptoms include severe lack of muscle tone, fatigue and weakness and an enlarged heart and liver. While a child with Pompe appears normal for the first few months of his/her life, development slowly declines as the disease progresses. In fact, most children die from cardiac or respiratory complications before reaching two years old.
If seeing their kids suffer at the hands of an incurable disease itself wasn't already complicated enough, the around-the-clock medicial attention for a child with Pompe, let alone two, is expensive. In the movie, the Crowleys were paying more than $40,000 a month for their children Megan's and Patrick's care, something they could barely afford even with John on the fast track in corporate America.
Bringing Science to Life
Once he discovers Dr. Stonehill's work on a drug that could save his children, however, John immediately walks away from the perks of a promising career to help them get the treatment they need.
With his wife by his side, John eventually persuades Dr. Stonehill, a tough but brilliant loner with little resembling a caring bedside manner, to champion the Crowleys' cause. Of course, the journey ahead is hardly an easy one. Not only do the Crowleys have to raise some serious cash to keep the effort moving forward, but Dr. Stonehill's drug isn't anywhere even close to being ready for market.
To get in touch with his inner scientist, a challenge that Ford enjoyed, he spent considerable time with scientists at the University of Nebraska. While he wanted to give the audience some credit, Ford says they were constantly trying to figure out how to make the science part of the story palatable for the audience.
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