Benedict Cumberbatch Defends “The Power of the Dog”
The Best Actor nominee said that the film was “not a history lesson,” but it actually could have been
Sam Elliott might think Oscar nominee The Power of the Dog is a “piece of shit,” but leading man Benedict Cumberbatch disagrees.
Veteran Western star Elliott had said on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron that in The Power of the Dog “There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the fuckin’ movie…What the fuck does [Jane Campion, the director of the film] — 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?”
He went on, saying “Where’s the Western in this Western? … I took it fuckin’ personal, pal.”
The Power of the Dog was based on a novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, an American novelist who grew up in Idaho and Montana and is widely believed to be a closeted gay man. In an BAFTA panel, Cumberbatch said that he didn’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.”
Cumberbatch continued on the panel, without naming Elliott directly, saying “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, 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… it’s not a history lesson.”
Some on Twitter have actually pointed out that it could be a history lesson, as LGBT+ people have existed in all places at all times.
The ongoing “scandal” surrounding Elliott’s comments and subsequent response has actually drawn more attention to the film, with some drawing the comparison between Brokeback Mountain’s Best Picture loss in 2006, and the potential for another “gay Western” to win in 2022.
The Power of the Dog has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Peter in the film and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, said he had “nothing” to say about Elliot’s critique. “I’m a mature being and I’m passionate about what I do, and I don’t really give energy to anything outside of that… Good luck to him.”
Elliott has previously expressed doubt at the possibility of gay cowboys, such as when he said that Brokeback Mountain was “a beautiful film and I was thrilled for Ang [Lee], but it isn’t a Western. For one thing, it’s about a couple of sheepherders, not cattlemen. The whole homosexual thing was interesting — they stepped over the line.”
As of this writing, the exact amount of gay content that’s “acceptable” in order for a film to be considered a Western has not been confirmed.
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