Veteran actor Sam Elliott, known for playing rugged cowboy types, has caused much brouhaha in the last week or so, for comments he made about Oscar frontrunner The Power of the Dog on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. Now, lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch has responded.
Despite being from California, Elliott is primarily known for his Western roles. One of his earliest parts was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and he also appeared in Gunsmoke, The Yellow Rose, The Quick and the Dead, Tombstone, The Desperate Trail, Buffalo Girls, Justified and 1883. He’s also known for being the enigmatic Stranger in The Big Lebowski who delivers the iconic send-off; “Well I hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch you later on down the trail. Say friend, got any more of that good sarsaparilla?”
He had several issues with Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, which is based on the novel by Thomas Savage and is set in 1920’s Montana. He didn’t like the fact that it was filmed in New Zealand, that someone referred to it as an “evisceration of the American myth,” and that the characters are “all running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions to homosexuality.”
He says that it is a myth that there were “macho men out there with the cattle” and that it’s actually extended, multi-generational families who do it.
Cumberbatch responded during a BAFTA Film Sessions interview; “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.”
“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,” the actor added. “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.”
The Power of the Dog is nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture and Cumberbatch for Lead Actor. If you’re excited for the ceremony which will be held later in March, check out the other nominations here.