Benedict Cumberbatch is speaking out following 1883 star Sam Elliott's criticism of his new movie, The Power of the Dog. During a BAFTA Film Sessions event (via Digital Spy), Cumberbatch spoke about Elliott's "odd" reaction and went on to explain that the film isn't a 'history lesson" and that explorations of characters like the one he plays in the film are relevant.
"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," Cumberbatch said. "Without meaning to stir over the ashes of that … 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… it's not a history lesson."
In The Power of the Dog, Cumberbatch plays Phil Burbank, a cattle rancher who grapples with his sexuality in 1925 Montana, a time where gender roles, expectations, and expressions were very set. The film has received 11 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Cumberbatch. However, while The Power of the Dog is garnering critical praise, Elliott has had some strong opinions about the film. The actor called the film a "piece of sh-t" with "all these allusions to homosexuality" during an appearance on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast last month. But while Elliott took offense with the film and its portrayals, Cumberbatch pointed out that people like his character still exist in the world — and that examining those characters has value.
"These people still exist on our world," Cumberbatch said. "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.
He added, "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."
The Power of the Dog is now on Netflix.