The Power of the Dog from Jane Campion is due to become a serious Oscar contender in 2022, with the spectacular revisionist western treating cinema’s oldest genre with a contemporary attitude. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, Campion has recently revealed that she let the actor improvise in the trance of method acting until the film’s climax, meaning she never truly knew how he was going to act on screen until the project was complete.
Starring as the dominant, though charismatic, rancher Phil Burbank, Campion’s story follows the life of a family of cattle farmers that also includes George (Jesse Plemons), his new wife Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Leading the line with an intimidating watchful eye, in one of the films’ final scenes Cumberbatch’s character goes into a rage of fury after Rose sells his cowhides.
In conversation with IndieWire, Campion reveals this scene was almost entirely improvised, noting: “I didn’t have a clue what he was going to do. In rehearsal, we never went there. We never went to that place to look at what he might do there”. Shocked and pleasantly surprised by his improvised performance, Campion added: “When I first saw him let it rip, I was absolutely stunned, thrilled, because I felt like this is what we need, this is what the film needs, to see the threat of Phil explode”.
Though Cumberbatch’s method acting style may put him among the top of the pile for Oscar glory, it certainly annoyed his co-stars, with Jesse Plemons reporting that the actor “pissed me off” on the set of the film after calling him “big boy” in character.
Out now on Netflix, The Power of the Dog is due to win big at the Academy Awards, with Cumberbatch, Campion, Plemons and Dunst all in the line for golden glory.