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Harrison Ford wants to show a different side with 'Extraordinary Measures'

Harrison Ford knows what audiences expect from him: white-knuckled thrillers, glossy action extravaganzas and a stone-faced intensity broken up by the occasional wry smile.

TORONTO - Harrison Ford knows what audiences expect from him: white-knuckled thrillers, glossy action extravaganzas and a stone-faced intensity broken up by the occasional wry smile.

And that's exactly why he likes to sometimes subvert those expectations.

The last time many movie-goers saw the 67-year-old actor, he was rocketing through lush South American jungles in a Jeep, rumbling through New England on a motorcycle and evading an army of hostile Russians while armed only with his trusty bullwhip in 2008's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

When he decided to produce and star in the tender new drama, "Extraordinary Measures," he wanted to go in exactly the opposite direction.

"I thought we would be able to make a film that has a positive aspect to it, that was different to a lot of the product today," Ford told The Canadian Press during a promotional stop in Toronto.

"(We wanted a film that) might leave people feeling good about the two hours they had spent in the theatre instead of just walking away with the car crashes and dead people and an experience more like a Wii game than an opportunity to recognize their common humanity with the rest of the world."

"And having said all of those noble things, I was looking to make a part for myself in a movie that was different to what normally comes my way. And give the audience, you know, something different coming out with my name on it."

In fact, "Extraordinary Measures" tells the story of John Crawley (Brendan Fraser), a young executive whose two children are dying from Pompe Disease, a rare, incurable genetic condition that appears at birth and rarely allows patients to live into their teen years.

Fraser's character discovers the forward-thinking writings of a university scientist (Ford) who has a theory on how to cure the disease but lacks the resources to test his theories. The two form a shaky alliance to bring the drug to the testing stage in time to save Crawley's children.

While "Extraordinary Measures" is inspired by true events, Ford's character, Dr. Robert Stonehill, is a composite of real-life scientists.

Ford researched the role extensively, visiting academic labs and speaking to scientists - "well-adjusted, nice people, by the way, not difficult people like the character that I play," he points out.

When he scrawls his ideas across whiteboards in the film, those complicated formulas are real, he notes.

He had a hand in developing his character and chose to make him prickly and obstinate, an eccentric grump who's restlessly brilliant but doesn't play well with others.

"I wanted to make drama and conflict out of the necessary relationship that Crawley and Stonehill had," said Ford, clad on this day in a black button-down with matching dress pants and silver-framed eyeglasses.

Indeed, much of the film revolves around the delicate relationship between the two characters, with Fraser playing heart-on-the-sleeve desperation while Ford's character is esoteric and unpredictable.

Both Fraser and director Tom Vaughan have said they were a bit starstruck upon meeting Ford.

When informed of this, Ford scoffs and shakes his head. Does he feel the need to take any special measures to help co-stars overcome that sort of reverence?

"I don't feel like I have to do anything, except them let them see what a dipshit I am," he said, betraying only a hint of a smile.

"There's nothing daunting or nothing to feel that way about. I'm just another co-worker. I mean, I don't know why that would happen. I think it's just, I don't know, distance.

"When you get up close to something, you get a better look at it."

Indeed, while Ford initially casts an imposing shadow - aside from being one of the world's biggest movie stars, he's got an intense way about him, a piercing presence - he's also friendly, thoughtful, and at times, playful.

For instance, he makes sure to clarify that Fraser grew up north of the border. "100 per cent Canadian content," Ford says. When asked how the two actors found their chemistry in the film, he responds with that familiar twinkling half-grin.

"It was pretty good, ehhh?" he says, drawing out the last syllable and smiling.

One line that's featured in the film's trailer has become something of a viral sensation. That's where Ford, realizing that his deadline for developing a prototype of his new drug has been bumped forward significantly, sternly exclaims: "I already work around the clock!"

The quote has been tweeted over and over, and some enterprising soul even saw fit to create a website where the line plays on an infinite loop.

Ford is aware that the clip has gained notoriety, but he can only guess as to the reason why.

"People have something stick and maybe it's a way of people expressing their frustration with the circumstances of the economy and the difficulty of getting and keeping a job these days," he said.

"And how . . . their lives are going on without them while they spend all their time working."