Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who reprises his Marvel Cinematic Universe role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in March, addresses the controversial topic of straight actors playing a gay character vis a vis The Power of the Dog currently screening at The Telluride Film Festival.
Cumberbatch is already familiar with the controversial topic having played mathematician Allan Turing in 2014’s The Imitation Game for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.
Today: In director Jane Campion’s new western, The Power of the Dog, which recently debuted at both the Telluride and Venice film festivals, Cumberbatch plays the part of a coarse and cruel cattle rancher whose sexuality unfolds amid the drama-packed plot.
“I feel very sensitive about representation, diversity, and inclusion,” the 45-year-old star said in an interview with IndieWire. “One of the appeals of the job was the idea that in this world, with this specific character, there was a lot that was private, hidden from view.”
And he assured that being cast for the part “wasn’t done without thought.”
Netflix synopsis of the film, which is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name, describes Cumberbatch’s character, Phil Burbank, as a man who “inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.”
According to Cumberbatch, casting such a complex part shouldn’t necessarily be dependent on his own lived experiences. “I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public?” he said. “Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don’t think so.”
Neil Patrick Harris, said earlier this year that if it were up to him, he “would definitely want to hire the best actor.”
“In our world that we live in you can’t really as a director demand that (an actor be gay or straight),” he told The Times. “Who’s to determine how gay someone is?”
As for Cumberbatch, he said that ultimately the decision came down to the film’s director, Jane Campion. “Jane chose us as actors to play those roles,” he said of the famed New Zealander. “That’s her question to answer.”
Watch the trailer below.
The Power of the Dog opens in select theaters this November, before making its streaming debut on Netflix Dec. 1.
Photos: Kirsty Griffin / Netflix