Benedict Cumberbatch’s “The Power Of The Dog” has had great reception after its premiere during the Venice Film Festival with a four-minute standing ovation, but has also once again raised the question about straight actors playing LGBTQ roles.
Adapted by Jane Campion from Thomas Savage’s novel, “The Power Of The Dog” is about a 1920s cattle rancher Phil (Cumberbatch) “who projects a crude, macho presence even as he develops unexpected chemistry with Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee)” who is the stepson of Phil’s brother (Jesse Plemons) after he marries widow (Kirsten Dunst).
“I feel very sensitive about representation, diversity, and inclusion,” Cumberbatch said at the Telluride Film Festival, as per IndieWire. “One of the appeals of the job was the idea that in this world, with this specific character, there was a lot that was private, hidden from view.”
According to the publication, Phil’s sexuality isn’t obvious but Cumberbatch took many things into consideration after portraying Alan Turning in “The Imitation Game”.
“It wasn’t done without thought,” he said. “I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public? Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don’t think so.”
For Smit-McPhee’s whose character is more exuberant but dealing with the restriction of the time, would have had to hide his preference.
“I would say that there’s a lot in Peter that I relate to,” Smit-McPhee said. “Sure, I’m a straight man, but I’m extremely in touch with my feminine side. I was raised by my mother and my sister. Of course, my dad has a huge masculine influence on my life but he could never really take me away from the feminine side that I just intrinsically have in myself. It was just a matter of bringing it out… and letting it be in the world. It was a really experimental but beautiful thing to do.”
To bring out the chemistry between Cumberbatch and Smit-McPhee, Campion had them take a two week boot camp, including times where they had to stay in character.
“Of course we chatted with each other, but there was also some little secret sauce in there somewhere, the stuff you leave to the moment,” Cumberbatch added. “I think when it’s non-verbal and intensely subtextual, when there are so many planes of intention and thoughts going on, you obviously want to take the audience in. You want them to believe what they’re seeing, but you also want to leave something to discover.”
“The Power Of The Dog” will be released in theatres on Nov. 17 and then hits Netflix on Dec. 1.