Power of the Dog: what did Sam Elliott say about the Netflix film - and how director Jane Campion responded

The new Netflix film won big during the Bafta 2022 awards, claiming both Best Film and Best Director

Power of the Dog director Jane Campion and leading star Benedict Cumberbatch have both spoken out against Sam Elliott after the actor made some scathing remarks about the Netflix film during an interview in which he called it a “piece of s**t”.

Elliott also made comments which have been described by Campion as “homophobic” after he bemoaned the “allusions to homosexuality” throughout the film.

This is everything you need to know.

What is Power of the Dog?

Before getting into everything that’s happened with Elliott, Power of the Dog director Jane Campion and its various stars, it’s important to first understand what Power of the Dog is.

Power of the Dog is a new film which was written and directed by Campion, who has directed films like The Portrait of a Lady (1996), Holy Smoke! (1999), In the Cut (2003) and Bright Star (2009). She also wrote, directed, produced and co-created the TV series Top of the Lake.

The film is based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, and revolves around rancher Phil Burbank who torments his brother’s family when he brings home a new wife and her son.

The new film is an adaption of the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage (Photo: Netflix)

Power of the Dog boasts a star studded cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Doctor Strange), Kirsten Dunst (The Virgin Suicides, On Becoming a God in Central Florida), Jesse Plemons (Other People, I’m Thinking of Ending Things), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In, Dark Phoenix) and Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, Last Night in Soho).

It explores themes such as love, grief, jealousy, resentment and sexuality, and has been released to critical acclaim, with 12 Oscar nominations, seven nominations at the Golden Globe Awards and 10 nominations at the Critics’ Choice Awards.

At the Bafta 2022 awards, the atmospheric western recently scooped up Best Film and Best Director.

It is currently available to watch in the UK on Netflix, after having been released on 19 November 2021.

What did Sam Elliott say?

Appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Elliott called Power of the Dog a “piece of s**t” and greatly criticised the film, especially in regards to its depiction of cowboys and the American west by a New Zealand and female director, as well as its themes of repressed homosexuality.

Elliott, whose career has long been intertwined with that of Westerns, having starred in Tombstone, The Quick and The Dead and The Shadow Brothers, added that he took the film’s portrayal of the American west as “f**king personal”.

When asked by Maron if he didn’t like the film, Elliott replied: “F**k no. Why? I’ll tell you why I didn’t like it anyway. I looked at [it] when I was down there in Texas [filming TV series 1883].

“There was a f**king full page ad out in the LA Times, and there was a clip, and it talked about the evisceration of the American myth.

“And I thought, “What the f**k? What the f**k?” This is the guy that’s done western forever. The evisceration of the American west? They made it look like - what are all those dancers, those guys in New York that wear bowties and not much else? Remember them from back in the day?”

Sam Elliott heavily criticised the film in an interview with Marc Maron (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

When Maron suggested that Elliott was thinking about the Chippendales, an all-male strip group, Elliot said: “That’s what all these f**king cowboys in that movie looked like, running around in chaps and no shirts. There were all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the f**king movie.”

Maron replied: “I think that’s what the movie’s about.”

Elliott continued: “Well, what the f**k does this woman from down there - she’s a brilliant director - know about the American wet, and why the f**k did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say, “This is the way it was.” That f**king rubbed me the wrong way, pal.

“The myth is that they were these macho men out there with the cattle. I just came from f**king Texas where I was handing out with families, not men, families, big, long, extended, multi-generation families.”

Elliott also added criticisms about Cumberbatch, complaining that he “never got out of his f**king chaps”.

He said: “He had two pairs of chaps - a wooly pair and a leather pair. And every f**king time he would walking in from somewhere - he never was on a horse, maybe once - he’d walk into the f**king house, storm up the f**king stairs, go lay in his bed in his chaps and play his banjo.

“It’s like, what the f**k.”

How did Jane Campion respond?

Speaking to Variety at the DGA Awards, Campion said: “I’m sorry, [Elliott] was being a little bitch of a B-I-T-C-H. He’s not a cowboy; he’s an actor.

“The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist.”

She added that she views the Western genre with a more expansive perspective, and that Elliott’s comments are made against her as a woman in a highly male dominated field.

Jane Campion scooped Best Director for The Power of the Dog at the BAFTA Awards (Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images)

She said: “When you think about the number of amazing Westerns made in Spain by [director] Sergio Leone.

“I consider myself a creator. I think [Elliott] thinks of me as a woman or something lesser first, and I don’t appreciate that.”

Campion also spoke to Deadline at the DGA Awards, where she added: “I think it’s really unfortunate and sad for [Elliott] because he’s really hit the trifecta of misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia. I don’t like that.”

What has Benedict Cumberbatch said?

Cumberbatch, who stars as the film’s lead, addressed Elliott’s criticisms in a BAFTA Film Sessions interview.

He said: “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 offence 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: “These people still exist in our world. Whether it’s on our doorstep or whether it’s down the road or whether it’s someone we meet in a bar or pub or on the sports field, there is 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 those around them.

“There’s no harm in looking at a character to get to the root causes of that. This is a very specific case of repression, but also due to an intolerance for that true identity that Phil is that he can’t fully be.

"The more we look under the hood of toxic masculinity and try to discover the root causes of it, the bigger chances we have of dealing with it when it arises with our children."

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the lead in the new Netflix film (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

He added: “Beyond that reaction, that sort of denial that anybody could have any other than a heteronormative existance 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 different.

“No more so than this prism of conformity of what’s expected of a man in the Western archetype mould of masculinity. To deconstruct that through Phil, it’s not a history lesson.”

Cumberbatch’s Power of the Dog co-star Jesse Plemons also told The Hollywood Reporter that Elliott’s comments “made me laugh”.

He said: “I know there are different layers to that. Not everyone has to like it, I’ll say that. That’s fine.”

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