Power of the Dog, The: Cumberbatch Defends Film’s Treatment of Masculinity and Homosexuality

Cumberbatch Defends ‘Power of the Dog’ After Sam Elliott Criticism

The Oscar-nominated actor spoke about the film and the “massive intolerance within the world at large towards homosexuality still, towards an acceptance of the other, of any kind of difference.”

Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch defended his acclaimed Western The Power of the Dog after the criticism by vet actor Sam Elliott.

Cumberbatch, an Oscar nominee for his role in the Netflix film, participated in a BAFTA panel when he alluded to Elliott’s comments, which included taking issue with the drama’s gay themes and calling director Jane Campion’s film “a piece of shit.”

“I’m trying very hard not to say anything about a very odd reaction that happened the other day on a radio podcast over here without meaning to stir up the ashes of that,” Cumberbatch said. “I don’t want to get into the details of it … but somebody really took offense to — I haven’t heard it so it’s unfair for me to comment in detail on it — to the West being portrayed in this way. And beyond that reaction — that sort of denial that anybody could have any other than a hetero-normative existence because of what they do for a living or where they’re born, there’s also a massive intolerance within the world at large towards homosexuality still, towards an acceptance of the other, of any kind of difference, and no more so I guess than in this prism of conformity of what’s expected of a man in the Western archetype mold of masculinity. So I think to deconstruct that through Phil, to look at that, it’s not a history lesson.”

Sam Elliot and Benedict Cumberbatch in Power of the Dog.

Elliott was on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast when he compared cowboys in The Power of the Dog to Chippendale dancers and took issue with the psychological character drama’s themes and portrayal of the West.

“They made it look like — what are all those dancers that those guys in New York that wear bowties and not much else?” Elliott said. “That’s what all these fucking cowboys in that movie looked like. They’re all running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the fucking movie. What the fuck does this woman  — she’s a brilliant director, by the way, I love her work, previous work — but what the fuck does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American West? And why in the fuck does she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say, ‘This is the way it was.’ That fucking rubbed me the wrong way, pal. The myth is that they were these macho men out there with the cattle. I just come from fucking Texas where I was hanging out with families, not men, but families, big, long, extended, multiple-generation families that made their living and their lives were all about being cowboys.”

The Power of the Dog is nominated for 12 Oscars, including best picture, and has drawn acclaim for its explorations of repression and masculinity.

Cumberbatch added, “Need we much look further than what’s going on in Russia at the moment, that somewhere in the mind-boggling idiocy of that man’s megalomania is some damage there. We saw in the president of the country that’s hosting me at the moment. These people still exist in our world — whether its on our doorstep or whether it’s down the road … there’s aggression and anger and frustration and an inability to control or know who you are in that moment that causes damage to that person … and damage to others around them. I think there’s no harm in looking at a character to try and get to the root causes of that.”

The Power of the Dog is streaming on Netflix.