In a new interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Benedict Cumberbatch talked about Jane Campion and both recalled the first time they met each other. Read it below:
Benedict Cumberbatch Reflects on Working With Jane Campion: “She’s Just Got This Amazing Magic About Her”
The ‘Power of the Dog’ star recalls rewatching ‘The Piano’ in anticipation of their meeting, trying his best to impress her: “I quickly turned it off as she came in.”
Benedict Cumberbatch has had quite a run over the past few months, receiving critical acclaim for his harrowing role in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, a film that ultimately received 12 Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for Cumberbatch.
After his nomination, which marked his second Academy recognition (the first was for 2014’s The Imitation Game), Cumberbatch spoke to THR about his nomination and how he tried to impress Campion.
“[Jane’s] a poet,” Cumberbatch says of the writer-director. “As opposed to writing a New York [Times] op-ed on Trumpism, this is poetry. This is really leaning into the visual medium at its richest. And when I first saw it, I saw that I was part of the world I was part of, and it blew me away. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m in a truly great piece of cinema.’ ”
The Netflix drama also stars Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee (all nominated in supporting acting categories) and follows Montana rancher Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch), who torments Rose (Dunst), the new wife of his brother, George (Plemons), when she moves to their ranch with her timid and awkward son, Peter (Smit-McPhee).
Cumberbatch already was a fan of Campion’s work — which includes 1993’s The Piano (for which she won an Academy Award for best original screenplay) and the TV series Top of the Lake (which aired for two seasons, in 2013 and 2017) — so much so that he tried to impress the director before he met her in California.
“The beginning of thinking about [the film] started really, properly, when I met her. Of course, I’d been told she was coming, so I read [the Thomas Savage novel on which the film is based, and] I got caught re-viewing The Piano, but I quickly turned it off as she came in,” he says. “Not that I don’t know that film backward, but I just wanted to see it one more time to be able to fish out some detail that might surprise her with my viewing skills to impress her. She’s such a delight. She’s an intuitive witch, really, she’s just got this amazing magic about her. She’s a very spiritual person. She kind of knows you rather than sees you, rather than examines you. That’s who I met.”
Campion also spoke to THR after receiving her nominations for best picture, director and adapted screenplay. She said he must’ve done a “good job,” noting that she “had no idea” Cumberbatch was watching the film when she entered the room.
“I think [he and his wife, playwright and theater director Sophie Hunter] were staying at a friend’s house in Malibu, and they had three little baby boys that were just the most gorgeous cherubs you could ever imagine,” recalls Campion. “And they were in the middle of giving a little bottle, so I came into the middle of the heart of their family. And we started to talk about The Power of the Dog. In a way, it’s funny, considering Sophie was really hoping to have a year with the family away from filmmaking, but she really loved this project and [had] lots of support [for] maybe doing it if it goes that way. And that’s exactly what happened. They got marooned in New Zealand during the pandemic, so they got this amazing time in the country.”
Campion is the first woman to be nominated twice for a best director Oscar, and she also is the first female filmmaker to receive the Palme d’Or at Cannes, for The Piano.
“[She’s] such a glass-ceiling-breaker, our Jane,” adds Cumberbatch. “She’s so important culturally, but she’s such a delight as a human being, and it’s a profound gift to be anywhere within her circle.”
Hilton Dresden contributed to this report.
This story first appeared in the March 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.