Benedict Cumberbatch (Photo: Shutterstock)
Sixteen years after Brokeback Mountain, another cowboy film that explores notions of masculinity and sexuality is on its way to being awarded. However, the relationship at the center of it seems much more ambiguous.
The Power of the Dog stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock). Directed and written by New Zealander Jane Campion (The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady), the 1920s western finds Cumberbatch as sadistic Montana farmer Phil Burbank.
He forms a bond with a younger man, Peter, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who comes to the same farm when his mother, played by Kirsten Dunst, marries Burbank’s brother.
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Described by the BBC as a ‘slow-burning Gothic melodrama’, the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is already being considered an awards season contender.
Over the weekend, it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. Cumberbatch and Smit-McPhee attended and took part in a conference about their roles.
We haven’t seen the movie, so we can’t comment on the sexuality of Cumberbatch’s character. However, he was asked about the discussions around which actors play which roles. He played the role of persecuted math genius Alan Turing in The Imitation Game in 2014.
“I feel very sensitive to representation, diversity and inclusion,” he said, as reported by IndieWire. “One of the attractions of the job was the idea that in this world, with this specific character, there were a lot of private things, hidden from view.”
“It was not done without thinking,” he continued. “I also feel a little bit, is this something where our dance card has to be public?” Should we explain all of our intimate moments in our sexual history? I do not think so.
It is not known if he is talking about his own sexual history or if he is talking about actors in general.
Ultimately, he suggests he went with the director’s vision.
“Jane chose us as actresses to play these roles. This is his question that must be answered.
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Smit-McPhee, 25, first gained attention in the 2009 post-apocalyptic film The Road. His character is more goofy, artistic, and clearly a fish out of the water in the hands of the ranch.
“I would say there are a lot of things about Peter that I identify with,” Smit-McPhee said. “Of course, I’m a straight man, but I’m extremely in touch with my feminine side. I was raised by my mother and my sister.
“Of course my dad has a huge male influence on my life, but he could never really pull me away from the female side that I have inherently within me. It was just a matter of getting him out… and letting him be in the world. It was a really experimental but beautiful thing to do.
The Power of the Dog hits theaters on November 17, before airing on Netflix from December 1.
You can watch a trailer below.