Update, April 11, at 9:55 a.m.: Sam Elliott profusely apologized for his comments criticizing The Power of the Dog. On a panel about 1883 for Deadline’s Contenders Television event, Elliott said the film “struck a chord” with him, but he “didn’t articulate it very well.” He continued, “I said some things that hurt people. And I feel terrible about that.” Elliott also specifically apologized to the gay community, noting he has had gay “friends on every level, in every job description, up until today with my agent, my dear friend.” And lastly, the actor apologized to the cast of The Power of the Dog and Jane Campion. “I can only say that I’m sorry, and I am,” he said. Elliott initially made his comments on the February 28 episode of WTF With Marc Maron; on the panel, he referred to Maron as “the WTF guy.” “Don’t go do a podcast whose call letters are WTF,” he joked.
Original story follows.
You can take a horse to the cinema, but you can’t make them enjoy the film. Best Picture Oscar nominee The Power of the Dog is considered to be one of the front-runners for the ever-changing awards show this year. However, not all cowboys are rooting for Jane Campion’s adaptation of the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage. On the WTF podcast hosted by Marc Maron, 1883’s Sam Elliott shared he did not like director Jane Campion’s approach to the Western. Elliott criticized the deconstruction of the cowboy archetype and the Western genre, comparing Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, Phil, to Chippendale dancers. “That’s what all these fucking cowboys in that movie looked like,” he told Maron. “They’re running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions of homosexuality throughout the movie.” Maron responded by stating that Elliott’s criticism is “what the movie is about.” Cumberbatch plays a closeted gay man who overcompensates with hypermasculinity. “Where’s the Western in this Western?” Elliott continued. “I mean, Cumberbatch never got out of his fucking chaps. He had two pairs of chaps — a woolly pair and a leather pair. And every fucking time he would walk in from somewhere — he never was on a horse, maybe once — he’d walk into the fucking house, storm up the fucking stairs, go lay in his bed in his chaps and play his banjo. It’s like, what the fuck?”
The costuming in the film wasn’t Elliott’s only issue; the film was originally set in 1920s Montana while the production of the movie was filmed in New Zealand. “What the fuck does this woman from down there know about the American West?” criticized Elliott of Campion, “Why the fuck did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana? And say this is the way it was? That fucking rubbed me the wrong way.” Campion told the Los Angeles Times in 2021 that the decision to film in New Zealand was due to budget constraints. “A lot of fantastic old ranch houses had been renovated as resorts. Or turned into second homes that were half authentic, half fabulous kitchens. We looked and looked, but we didn’t find anything, and the cost of building the ranch house and a fake town there turned out to be incredibly expensive items,” said the Power of the Dog director. Despite his feelings on the modern Western, Elliott concluded by admitting he took his criticisms of the film personally.