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Benedict Cumberbatch Reacts To Sam Elliot’s Profanity-Laced Review Of The Power Of The Dog

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog
(Image credit: Netflix)

Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Power of the Dog is getting some serious praise, and is nominated for a ton of Oscars this year, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. Not everyone is feeling the movie, though, and after western genre vet Sam Elliot had some seriously impassioned and profanity-laced words about the film, Cumberbatch has responded with his own diplomatic words.

In an interview with BAFTA after being nominated for the award of best actor in a leading role, Benedict Cumberbatch “tries very hard” not to talk about the adverse reaction to The Power of the Dog. It seems as though he certainly has heard about the backlash to his movie, although he says he doesn't know the full context. This is what he says, exactly:

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. Someone 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.

So, Benedict Cumberbatch is saying a lot without really saying much here. It’s clear he is talking about Sam Elliot’s intense reaction to Power of the Dog. Elliot dropped multiple F-Bombs over the film, saying that director Jane Campion doesn’t really have a place to speak on the American West’s experience when she is from New Zealand. 

In addition to having an issue with Jane Campion telling a story of the American West’s experience, he also took issue with allusions to homosexuality in the film. In the same interview, Benedict Cumberbatch responds to this reaction, saying that, just as with life, there is no one experience that encompasses a culture. Cumberbatch explains The Power of the Dog is not a history lesson, and is more about the inclusion of a type of masculinity that isn’t typically depicted in westerns. Here is what he says, exactly:

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 and toward an acceptance of the other and anything kind of difference. No more so than in this prism of conformity of what’s expected of a man in the Western archetype mold of masculinity. To deconstruct that through Phil, it’s not a history lesson.

For the most part, Westerns certainly contain a certain type of trope of “manliness”, but the world is beginning to become more inclusive and more representative of the type of people who actually exist. Not all cowboys were represented by a 1960 Clint Eastwood. In fact, I’d be willing to guess that there were plenty of cowboys who would have seen parts of themselves in Benedict Cumberbatch’s representation.

Sam Elliot may have some serious qualms with The Power of the Dog, but it doesn’t sound like Benedict Cumberbatch even remotely agrees, and I‘m willing to bet that the family Cumberbatch’s movie training saved doesn’t have a problem with the film either. If you haven’t already, you can judge the film for yourself by streaming it with a Netflix subscription

You’ll also want to check out all the other Best Picture nominees if you’re a fan of the Oscars, because a winner will be announced later this month. As far as Sam Elliot is concerned, though, The Power of the Dog probably won’t be on his list of picks.

Carlie Hoke
Carlie Hoke

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.