Venerable actor and frequent big-screen cowboy Sam Elliott didn’t hold back when sharing his distaste for director Jane Campion’s psychological drama, “The Power of the Dog.”
During his interview for Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, Elliott dubbed the film, based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name, a “piece of sh--.” He said that the film has an inauthentic Western setting, uses chaps inappropriately, and has “allusions of homosexuality.”
And now the film’s Oscar-nominated leading man, Benedict Cumberbatch, is addressing the 77-year-old actor’s “very odd reaction."
Cumberbatch, 45, brought up the topic during a BAFTA Film Sessions interview last week, though he spoke about it without even mentioning Elliott by name.
“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,” he told BAFTA’s Head of Programs, Mariayah Kaderbhai. “Someone really took offense to — I haven’t heard it so it’s unfair for me to really comment in detail on it — but really took offense to the West being portrayed in this way.”
There’s also a massive intolerance within the world at large towards homosexuality still...
Benedict Cumberbatch said of the criticism.
Part of that portrayal of the West included Cumberbatch’s character, Phil Burbank, a closeted gay rancher from Montana who's own toxic masculinity is his defining trait.
During Elliott's chat with Maron, he said of the film, “They’re all running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions of homosexuality throughout the f---ing movie."
Cumberbatch continued to address that indirectly in his interview.
“Beyond that reaction, that sort of denial that anybody could have any other than a heteronormative 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, toward an acceptance of the other and any kind of difference,” Cumberbatch noted. “No more so, I guess, than in this prism of conformity in the sense of what is expected of a man in the Western archetype mold of masculinity."
Regardless of the reaction of Elliott or any other critics, the actor stressed the importance of telling these stories and taking a closer look at what contributes to toxic masculinity.
“We need to understand and look under the hood of characters like Phil Burbank to see what their struggle is and why that’s there in the first place,” he said. “Because otherwise, it will keep repeating itself.”
"The Power of the Dog" has faced far more industry praise than criticism. The drama currently leads the Oscar race with 12 Academy Award nominations.