Spoilers for The Power of the Dog.
Did y’all know that Sam Elliott spent his formative years in Sacramento and Portland, Oregon? WTF? I figured he was born on an Oklahoma ranch, in the dead of night, next to some cows. Sam’s family is originally from Texas, so that might explain his general “I’m a cowboy, g–damn it” energy. Anyway, Sam Elliott has spent much of his career playing cowboys, good ole boys and rednecks. He has strong opinions about cowboys and cowboy movies and the actors who play cowboys. And hoo boy, Sam Elliott did not care for The Power of the Dog. Sam spoke about the film on Marc Maron’s WTF pod.
Sam Elliott railed against Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” during his visit to Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast (via Insider). Campion’s drama is nominated for 12 Oscars, more than any film this year. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a sadistic rancher who makes life hell for his new sister-in-law and her son in 1925 Montana. Elliott called the film a “piece of shit” and seemed bothered by how the film deconstructs classic Western archetypes such as cowboys. Elliott compared Campion’s cowboys to Chippendale dancers who “wear bow ties and not much else.”
“That’s what all these f–king cowboys in that movie looked like,” Elliott said. “They’re running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions of homosexuality throughout the movie.”
Cumberbatch’s character is a closeted gay man in the film. Maron told Elliott that these themes are “what the movie is about,” but Elliott remained critical of Campion’s approach to the Western genre.
“Where’s the Western in this Western?” Elliott asked. “I mean, Cumberbatch never got out of his f–king chaps. He had two pairs of chaps — a woolly pair and a leather pair. And 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?”
Elliott said of Campion, “What the f–k does this woman from down there know about the American West? Why the f–k did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana? And say this is the way it was? That f–king rubbed me the wrong way.”
Elliott, who earned an Oscar nomination a few years back for his performance in “A Star Is Born,” added, “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 living and their lives were all about being cowboys. And boy, when I f–king saw that [movie], I thought, ‘What the f–k? Where are we in this world today?’”
For what it’s worth, it’s not like Jane Campion pulled this story out of thin air. It’s based on a book (of the same name) by Thomas Savage, published in 1967. The allusions to homosexuality were basically all that a mainstream novel could get away with at that time. I actually thought they dealt with the homosexuality issue really well in the film, because it was honestly more about how menacing and damaged Phil was, not because he was a closeted gay man but because he was just a toxic, horrible man. I do wonder if Sam just thinks there are no gay cowboys? Does he believe closeted gay men can’t wear chaps around the house? What is the real criticism here and is it homophobic?? Or is he merely prejudiced against chaps-as-loungewear?
Incidentally, I enjoyed the movie and I think it’s deserving of its Oscar nominations, but I also don’t hate the fact that it’s getting snubbed. It’s a beautiful-looking film and the performances are good-to-great. But… other films were better.
Marc Maron: Did you see Power of the Dog, did you see that movie?
Sam Elliott: Yeah do you wanna talk about that piece of shit?
Marc: [ohh noo] You didn’t like that one?
Sam: Fuck no. pic.twitter.com/BGdOd6scwe
— Jonathan (@jonathanmb32) February 28, 2022
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Netflix.