The Power of the Dog: Veteran actor Sam Elliott calls Jane Campion’s Oscar-nominated film a ‘piece of s***’

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Sam Elliott has made a scathing criticism of Jane Campion’s critically acclaimed film The Power of The Dog over its depiction of cowboys and the wild west.

The veteran actor – whose cinematic legacy is inextricably tied to westerns – said he took the film’s portrayal of the American west as “f***** personal”.

In the latest episode of comedian Marc Maron’s podcast WTF with Marc Maron, which was released on Monday (28 February), Elliott and Maron were discussing some of 2021’s biggest releases.

Towards the end of the podcast, Maron asked his guest whether he’d seen Campion’s drama, with Benedict Cumberbatch portraying the film’s lead.

“Yeah, you want to talk about that piece of s***?” Elliott asked, explaining that his disdain for the film was prompted in part by a critic’s review.

“There was a f****** full page ad out in the LA Times,” Elliott said, “and it talked about the evisceration of the American myth, and I thought: ‘What the f***’.”

The LA Times’ review of The Power of The Dog doesn’t contain any mention of the phrase.

However, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis’ review reads: “A great American story and a dazzling evisceration of one of the country’s foundational myths, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog centres on Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch), a swaggering man’s man.”

Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Power of the Dog’ (AP)
Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Power of the Dog’ (AP)

Continuing his critique of the movie, Elliott compared the cowboys in Campion’s movie to 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 running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions of homosexuality throughout the movie,” he said.

Maron noted at this point that this is “what the movie’s about”, in reference to the film sequences that suggest Cumberbatch’s character is a closeted gay man.

Elliott also criticised what he perceived to be Campion’s lack of insight into the world she was trying to recreate.

Prefacing his answer by saying she’s “a brilliant director”, Elliott questioned: “What the f*** does this woman from down there [New Zealand] know about the American west? Why the f*** did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana? And say this is the way it was?”

The actor suggested that “the myth is that they [American cowboys] were these macho men out there with cattle” when reality couldn’t be further.

“I just came from Texas where I was hanging out with families – not men – but families. Big, long, extended, multiple-generation families that made their livings... And their lives were all about being about cowboys. And boy, when I f***ing saw that [movie], I thought, ‘What the f***’.”

Elliott had been shooting for Taylor Sheridan’s Western TV show 1883, a prequel for Yellowstone, in Texas.

When Maron tried to defend the film, Elliott retorted: “Where’s the western in this western?”

“I mean, Cumberbatch never got out of his f****** chaps,” he said. “He had two pairs of chaps – a woolly pair and a leather pair. And every f****** time he would walk in from somewhere – he never was on a horse – he’d walk in to the f****** house, storm up the f****** stairs, go lay in his bed, in his chaps and play the banjo.”

The Power of the Dog is one of the frontrunners at this year’s Academy Awards, with 12 nominations.

Campion’s Best Director nod made her the first woman in history to receive two nominations in the category, having previously been nominated for her 1993 drama The Piano.

Among the film’s other nominations are for Best Actor (Cumberbatch), Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

You can read The Independent’s four-star review of The Power of the Dog here.