Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, director Jane Campion, editor Peter Sciberras, production designer Grant Major, and supervising sound editor Robert MacKenzie did a virtual The Power of the Dog Q&A session for Variety Streaming Room, which you can watch in full below:
When Jane Campion approached Benedict Cumberbatch about starring in her next film, he was intimidated by the complexity of the lead: Phil Burbank, a volatile but vulnerable Montana rancher. But when he signed on to the project and began preparing for the role, he was committed to capturing the character.
“It was something I really wanted to inhabit, I wanted to pay tribute to the people that had let me into their lives in the West when I went to Montana to study what it was like to be on a ranch, I’d never been on one in my life, it’s very far from my lived experience, so I had to go there and feel it and smell it and experience and do it, and try to bring that into my work and just discover who this person was with this incredible cast of inspirational actors, and with Jane and Ari’s view of it all,” Cumberbatch said in a Variety Streaming Room conversation moderated by film awards editor Clayton Davis. “That was a real hook for me, I guess, trying to understand this duality within him and how that was sunk much deeper in him not being able to reveal his true self for fear of the world hating on him and him ending up hating on it before it could.”
Cumberbatch was joined by fellow “The Power of the Dog” castmates Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, as well as editor Peter Sciberras, production designer Grant Major, supervising sound editor Robert MacKenzie, and director, writer and producer Campion. The team discussed the process of working on the critically acclaimed western together and what drew them to the material.
Campion said she was interested in making the film after reading the original Thomas Savage novel it is based on. However, throughout the process, she was often anxious over whether or not she could do the story justice. In making the film, she said that she had to have faith in her cast to embody the characters and thanked her crew for helping her bring the novel to life.
“I never know what’s going to happen when the actors step on the set, and therefore, for me, that is the great moment too, because I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do,” Campion said. “It’s so exciting, and that’s why I really esteem actors and their courage and their creativity so highly because they have to be so vulnerable to do this work. I think being vulnerable is just the hardest thing in the world. I don’t know how you guys do it. I guess we all try to do it in our own way, but you guys are really out there doing it.”