Sam Elliott slams Power of the Dog's gay themes: 'They're all running around in chaps and no shirts'
1883 actor Sam Elliott — a staple of the Western genre — has slammed director Jane Campion's Oscar-nominated Netflix drama The Power of the Dog for exploring gay themes against the backdrop of the American West.
"You want to talk about that piece of s---?" the77-year-old asked when prompted to speak about the Best Picture-contending film on Monday's episode of the WTF With Marc Maron podcast, in which he went on to liken the film's central, conflicted cowboy — played by Benedict Cumberbatch — to Chippendales dancers "who wear bowties and not much else" on stage.
"That's what all these f---ing cowboys in that movie looked like. They're all running around in chaps and no shirts, there's all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the f---ing movie," he continued, later questioning New Zealand-born director Campion's qualifications to helm a narrative that follows characters through the Montana plains.
"She's a brilliant director, I love her previous work, but what the f--- does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American West?" he asked. "And why the f--- did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say 'this is the way it was?' That rubbed me the wrong way, pal."
He went on to say that his experience with people in the West encompasses more than just men gallivanting around, but rather centers on "multi-generational families that made their living, and their lives were all about being cowboys," he explained.
"Where are we in this world today? It's not the biggest issue at hand, but for me it was the only issue because there was so much of it. I mean, Cumberbatch never got out of his f---ing chaps," the A Star Is Born Oscar nominee finished. "He had two pairs of chaps, a wooly pair and a leather pair. Every time he'd walk in from somewhere, he never was on a horse, maybe once, he'd walk into the f---ing house, storm up the f---ing stairs, go lay on his bed in his chaps and play his banjo. It was like, what the f---? Where's the Western in this Western?"
Representatives for Elliott and Netflix did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment on the actor's quotes.
Since its debut on the festival circuit last year, critics have consistently hailed Campion's tale as a slow-burning masterwork that deconstructs the notion of masculinity — particularly as it has been displayed throughout Westerns in the past.
The 12-time Oscar-nominated film follows Cumberbatch as a rancher named Phil Burbank who, while living with his brother (Jesse Plemons) and sister-in-law (Kirsten Dunst), navigates the unexpected presence of the latter's son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from a previous marriage. The dynamic of the group changes swiftly upon his arrival, which conjures secrets and skeletons from Burbank's past; numerous scenes suggest the hard-nosed cowboy grapples with repressed homosexuality.
"For me, it's not really about gender. It's just about sensitivity and appreciation for the balance of needs on a set. [Jane's] been a champion and has shown people that women have every right to be behind a camera and proven it with extraordinary work in her career," Cumberbatch previously praised of Campion in a 2021 interview for EW's Awardist podcast. "But on a day-to-day shoot, it doesn't seem to me as being a different feeling. Maybe I've been lucky and I haven't worked with sort of hypermasculine directors."
Campion became the first woman in history to receive two career Best Director Oscar nods when the Academy announced its nominations in February, nearly 30 years after she scored her first for directing 1993's The Piano.
The Power of the Dog is now streaming on Netflix. Listen to Elliott's full appearance on WTF with Marc Maron here.
Check out The Awardist podcast for interviews with this year's top contenders for the Oscars and more of Hollywood's biggest awards.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a menacing cowboy in Jane Campion's twisty Western.