The year's most Oscar-nominated film, Elliott called it a "piece of s---."
Oscar-nominated director Jane Campion did not mince words when it came to responding to what actor Sam Elliott had to say about her Western, "Power of the Dog."
"Dog" is the most-nominated film for this year's Academy Awards, with 12 total and three for Campion herself. She is up for Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture (as a producer). Elliott called the film "a piece of s---."
Campion, who hails from New Zealand, was asked about his comments on the red carpet for the 2002 Directors Guild of America Awards and she did not hold back at all, telling Variety, "I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H," adding, "I’m sorry to say, he’s not a cowboy; he’s an actor."
Later, at the awards ceremony, Campion picked up the top prize, marquee Theatrical Feature Film award, making her the de facto front-runner for the Best Director Oscar at the Academy Awards on March 27.
Before the show, Campion went on to explain to Variety why she feels that her vision is every bit as valid as any other vision that's been portrayed on screen in the genre before hers. "The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range," she said.
And then, of Elliott's particular criticism, she added, "And, ya know, I think it’s a little bit sexist. You think about the number of amazing Westerns that were made in Spain by Sergio Leone. I consider myself a creator, and I think he sees me as a woman or something lesser first, and I don't appreciate that."
She broke it down even more for Deadline, telling the outlet that Elliott "I think it’s really unfortunate and sad for him because he’s really hit the trifecta of misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia. I don't like that."
She then joked that Elliott and her film's star, Benedict Cumberbatch, could settle the score in the old West way. "When [Elliott] gets out of hair and makeup, I’ll meet him down at the OK Corral on the set with Doctor Strange, and we will shoot it out," she laughed.
During an appearance on Marc Maron's "WTF" podcast two weeks ago, Elliot complained, "What the f--- does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American West? Why the f--- did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana? And say this is the way it was? That f------ rubbed me the wrong way."
He went on to emphasize that "the myth was that they were these macho men out there with the cattle." Later in the interview, after Maron failed to steer him away from this angle, Elliott told him, "I take it personal, I take it f------ personal, pal!"
The biggest issue for Elliott seemed to be the way the cowboys themselves were portrayed, comparing them to Chippendale dancers. "They’re all running around in chaps and no shirts," he complained.
He complained about Cumberbatch appearing in chaps throughout the film, but not appearing astride a horse all that often. "There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the f------ movie."
The film's star, Benedict Cumberbatch, also weighed in on Elliott's critique during a BAFTA Film Sessions on March 4, though he said he hadn't heard the comments directly at that point.
Cumberbatch said of his Netflix character, Phil Burbank: "These people still exist in our world. Whether it's on our doorstep or whether it's down the road or whether it's someone we meet in a bar or pub or on the sports field, there is aggression and anger and frustration and an inability to control or know who you are in that moment that causes damage to that person and, as we know, damage to those around them."
"This is a very specific case of repression but also due to an intolerance for that true identity that Phil is that he can't fully be," he continued.
In the psychological Western drama, Cumberbatch plays a tough, wealthy rancher, whom it is hinted had a secret homosexual relationship with his since-deceased mentor; he mocks and bullies his new sister-in-law's son over his effeminate manner, but later takes him under his wing.
Naturally, considering its more overt homosexual content, one would wonder how Elliott responded to Ang Lee's Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain." According to this 2006 interview, he saw it and liked it.
"I did," he told interviewer Scott Holleran at the time. "I went with my wife and I didn't really get what all the to-do was about."
"It is a beautiful film and I was thrilled for Ang [Lee, who directed Elliott in Hulk], but it isn't a Western. For one thing, it's about a couple of sheepherders, not cattlemen."
"The whole homosexual thing was interesting—they stepped over the line—but Katharine and I both looked at it and thought, 'what's the big deal?'"
As many commentators now point out however, Elliott didn't seem to take issue with the fact the director was from Taiwan, and that the movie was shot in Alberta.