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Jane Campion responds to Sam Elliott’s ‘Power of the Dog’ criticism

“The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist.”

By Hollie Geraghty

Jane Campion is interviewed by Variety alongside a still of Sam Elliot on a talkshow
Jane Campion has described Sam Elliot's comments as "a little bit sexist" (Pictures: YouTube).

Director Jane Campion has responded to Sam Elliot’s criticism of her award-winning film ‘The Power of the Dog’, which the veteran actor described as  “a piece of shit”.

Elliot criticised Campion’s multi-Oscar nominated western, which won Best Film and Best Director at last night’s BAFTAs, on Marc Maron’s ‘WTF’ podcast last month.

“They’re running around in chaps and no shirts,” Elliot said. “There’s all these allusions of homosexuality throughout the movie.”

He also questioned what Campion – a New Zealand born director – knows about the American West.

“[Jane Campion’s] a brilliant director, by the way. I love her work, previous work,” he began. “But what the fuck does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American West? 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?’ So that f*ckin’ rubbed me the wrong way, pal.”

Responding to the criticism, Campion said she believed his comments were “sexist”.

Speaking to Variety at the Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday (March 12), Campion said: “I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H. He’s not a cowboy; he’s an actor.”

“The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist.”

Jesse Plemons, who is Oscar-nominated alongside his wife and co-star Kirsten Dunst for their roles in the film, said Elliot’s criticism “made me laugh”.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter before a Los Angeles screening of his new film ‘Windfall’ on Friday (March 11), Plemons said: “I don’t know why I reacted this way, but — I’m not going to say it made me happy, but it made me laugh. I don’t know.

“People can have their own opinions about something. I know there are different layers to that… but not everyone has to like it.”

Last week, Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays rancher Phil Burbank in the film, also weighed in on Elliot’s controversial comments.

Speaking at BAFTA’s Film Sessions event earlier this month, the actor was asked about the importance of exploring a character like Burbank.

He said that he was “trying very hard not to say anything about a very odd reaction” on a podcast.

“Without meaning to stir over the ashes of that… someone really took offence to – I haven’t heard it so it’s unfair for me to comment in detail on it – to the West being portrayed in this way.”

“These people still exist in our world,” he continued. “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.”

He added: “The more we look under the hood of toxic masculinity and try to discover the root causes of it, the bigger chances we have of dealing with it when it arises with our children.”

‘The Power of the Dog’ has received a total of 12 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (twice in the same category), and Best Actress. The ceremony is due to take place on March 27.