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Benedict Cumberbatch Defends ‘The Power of the Dog’ After Sam Elliott’s ‘Very Odd’ Criticism of Gay Themes: He ‘Really Took Offense’

Benedict Cumberbatch Defends Power Dog After Sam Elliott Criticism
Benedict Cumberbatch and Sam Elliott. Shutterstock (2)

Defending his art. Benedict Cumberbatch is taking ownership over his work in The Power of the Dog after Sam Elliott criticized the film’s “allusions of homosexuality.”

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Cumberbatch, 45, portrays Phil Burbank, a closeted rancher in 1825 Montana, in the Oscar-nominated movie directed by Jane Campion. During a recent BAFTA Film Sessions interview, the British actor opened up about the apparent backlash his role has sparked.

“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,” the Emmy winner began. “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.”

The Sherlock star continued: “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.”

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Elliott, 77, made headlines last month for his comments about the male characters in The Power of the Dog, comparing them to Chippendale dancers who “wear bow ties and not much else.” During an interview on the “WTF With Marc Maron” podcast, the A Star Is Born actor called the movie a “piece of s–t” that didn’t fit into the western genre.

“Cumberbatch never got out of his f–king chaps. He had two pairs of chaps: a woolly pair and a leather pair,” the Parks and Recreation alum continued on the February 28 episode. “Every f–king time he would walk 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?”

The Road House actor laid into Campion, 67, for choosing to shoot the film in her native New Zealand, adding, “What the f–k does this woman from down there know about the American West? … That f–king rubbed me the wrong way.”

Cumberbatch, however, didn’t seem fazed by Elliott’s disapproval. “These people still exist in our world,” the 12 Years a Slave star said on BAFTA Film Sessions. “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.”

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The Golden Globe nominee explained that Phil’s is a “very specific case of repression,” noting that the character couldn’t “fully be” himself due to the “intolerance” in the environment around him. While Elliott believed the movie set a bad example, Cumberbatch defended its message.

“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,” he concluded.

The Power of the Dog — which also stars Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee — scored more nominations than any other film at the 94th annual Oscars, including Best Picture. With 12 total nods, it is the first movie directed by a woman to be recognized in more than 10 Academy Awards categories.

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