In a bizarre rant, the actor criticized Netflix’s The Power of the Dog for its “allusions to homosexuality.”
Sam Elliott, the actor known mostly for his distinct drawl and the many cowboy personas he’s donned over the years, did not mince words when it came to his thoughts on Netflix’s The Power of the Dog. As a recent guest on comedian Marc Maron’s podcast, Elliott spoke sharply of the critically-acclaimed Western from New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion, centering his disapproval on its gay themes and fixating, oddly, on the chaps its cowboys were wearing.
"You want to talk about that piece of shit?" Elliott said when asked about the film, which is up for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture. Elliott said he watched and didn’t like the film, but really took issue with an ad he saw of it in the Los Angeles Times. “It talked about the ‘evisceration of the American myth,’” he said. “And I thought, ‘What the fuck? What the fuck?’ This is the guy that’s done westerns forever. The evisceration of the American west? They made it look like — what are all those dancers that those guys in New York who wear bowties and not much else?”
Maron confirmed that he was referring to the Chippendales. “That’s what all these fucking cowboys in that movie look like,” Elliott said. “They’re all running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the fucking movie.”
“I think that’s what the movie’s about,” Maron replied. Indeed, Campion’s film was a searing, revelatory take on the Western that did prod at questions of repressed sexuality and masculinity on the American frontier. But Elliott denounced the take from the director — who made history this year as the first female director to ever be nominated twice for the Oscar for Best Director — partly because she was not from America.
“What the fuck does this woman — she’s a brilliant director by the way, I love her work, previous work — but what the fuck does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American west?” Elliott said. “And why in the fuck does 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, pal.”
As others online were quick to point out, being American is hardly a prerequisite to make a good Western (e.g. Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone and his many beloved spaghetti westerns). But Elliott implied that the film’s focus on Phil Burbank, a vicious rancher played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was disrespectful: “The myth is that they were these macho men out there with the cattle. I just come from fucking Texas where I was hanging out with families, not men, families — big, long, extended, multiple-generation families.”
The rant was bizarre: it’s hard to imagine how Campion’s film could be seen as a slight against the lineage of multigenerational families in the American west. Elliott, it seems, just couldn’t get past the idea of gay cowboys — yet, ironically, he seemed most upset that they would never take off their pants.
"Where are we in this world today? It's not the biggest issue at hand, but for me it was the only issue because there was so much of it. I mean, [Benedict] Cumberbatch never got out of his fucking chaps," Elliott said. “He had two pairs of chaps, a wooly pair and a leather pair. Every time he'd 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 on his bed in his chaps and play his banjo. It was like, what the fuck? Where's the Western in this Western?"