Benedict Cumberbatch Responds to Sam Elliott's 'Power of the Dog' Criticism

Benedict Cumberbatch had an eloquent response to criticism of The Power of the Dog, appearing to target Sam Elliott's recent remarks without naming the actor. Cumberbatch called the 1883 actor's reaction to the film "very odd." During an appearance on Marc Maron's podcast, Elliott called the film a "piece of s—" and complained about the movie's "allusions to homosexuality."

"I'm trying very hard not to say anything about a very odd reaction that happened the other day on a radio podcast, without meaning to stir over the ashes of that," Cumberbatch said during a discussion about The Power of the Dog at BAFTA's Film Sessions on March 4, reports Entertainment Weekly. "I won't get into the details of it, if it's hit in the news at home, it has here. But, someone really took offense.... to the West being portrayed in this way."

Cumberbatch continued, "Beyond that reaction, the denial that anybody could have anything other than a heteronormative existence because of what they do for a living or where they're born... There's also a massive intolerance in the world at large towards homosexuality, still, towards an acceptance of the other, of any kind of difference, and no more so than in this prism of conformity, in the sense of what is expected of a man in the Western archetype mold of masculinity."

In The Power of the Dog, Cumberbatch stars as rancher Phil Burbank, whose life is changed when his brother George (Jesse Plemons) marries restaurant owner Rose (Kirsten Dunst). Rose's son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is at first the target of Phil's disdain, but after Peter learns more about Phil's past, Phil's struggle with repressed homosexuality comes to the forefront. The movie is based on Thomas Savage's 1967 novel and was written and directed by Jane Campion.

Cumberbatch noted that there are people like Phil who still exist. "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 as we know, damage to others around them," he said. "I think there's no harm in looking at a character to try to get to the root cause of that."

In his comments on Maron's podcast, Elliott complained that there were cowboys in the film who liked like Chippendales dancers "who wear bowties and not much else," adding, "That's what all these f—ing 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 f-ing movie."

Elliott also complained about the film being directed by a woman from New Zealand, where the film was also shot. "She's a brilliant director, I love her previous work, but what the f— does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American West?" Elliott asked Maron. "And why the f— did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say 'This is the way it was?' That rubbed me the wrong way, pal."

The Power of the Dog earned 12 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Campion, and Best Actor for Cumberbatch. It is now available on Netflix. The streamer's response to Elliott's comments appears to be a tweet with a still from the film with the quote, "He's just a man. Only another man."