Benedict Cumberbatch is defending The Power of the Dog after actor Sam Elliott called the film a “piece of shit” and complained about “allusions of homosexuality.”

Cumberbatch stars as Phil Burbank, a man whose carefully-cultivated machismo hides personal anxieties about his sexual preferences. For Cumberbatch’s work in director Jane Campion’s film, he’s been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and he’s being considered for the same honor at the 2022 BAFTA Awards. He recently participated in a BAFTA Film Sessions panel where he politely addressed the controversy.

After answering a question about all the Phils still out there in the world today, he said he hoped The Power of the Dog helped explain “what poisons the well in men, what creates toxic masculinity.” He added, “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 continued, “Somebody really took offense to — I haven’t heard it, so it’s unfair, really, for me to comment in detail on it — really took offense to the West being portrayed in this way. And beyond that reaction — that sort of denial that anybody could have any other than a hetero-normative 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, towards an acceptance of the other, of any kind of difference, and no more so I guess than in this prism of conformity, in the sense of what’s expected of a man in the Western archetype mold of masculinity. So I think to deconstruct that through Phil, to look at that, it’s not a history lesson.”


Cumberbatch’s response to Elliott’s remarks begin shortly after the 43-minute mark in the video below.

The Power of the Dog was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. In the process, Jane Campion became the first woman with two Best Director nominations.