Last night (March 5th, 2022), BAFTA hosted a session for the EE British Academy Film Award nominees in the leading actor category, with Stephen Graham (Boiling Point) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) in the spotlight. 

The EE BAFTA Film Awards will take place next Sunday (March 13th, 2022) at the Royal Albert Hall; the event is hosted by Rebel Wilson, and will be broadcast on BBC One, BBC One HD and BBC iPlayer at 7pm. 

Benedict Cumberbatch takes the lead in The Power of the Dog
Benedict Cumberbatch takes the lead in The Power of the Dog

Benedict Cumberbatch is a very well-known and beloved British actor; his popularity grew when he portrayed famous detective Sherlock Holmes in the BBC One show, alongside Martin Freeman who played John Watson. 

Since then, Cumberbatch landed the role of a lifetime, playing Doctor Stephen Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and stars in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness later this year (2022). 

The actor recently fronted a Netflix Original called The Power of the Dog, in which Cumberbatch stars as Phil Burbank, a cruel farmhand who responds with rage when his brother brings home a new wife and her son. 

Cumberbatch spoke with Mariayah Kaderbhai from BAFTA all about The Power of the Dog, and how he participated in dream therapy, learning new skills, as well as how he went about portraying his character in the 21st century. 

“We did dream analysis,” said Cumberbatch, “which is a real trip, the idea that you can just drop a tiny suggestion on a notepad or in a mantra or some kind of thought process before you sleep and then let your subconscious do some of that work.” 

The actor continued that he “fell back on dreaming for inspiration, but boy is it there after the first few dry spells of worrying about did I lock the door, or is the oven on? And Jane [Campion] was dreaming of flowers exploding with blood.” 

Cumberbatch is clearly someone to not only try new things, but he is also someone that commits to every part of his role. The Power of the Dog was clearly a wonderful challenge for him. 

“...that was a very new experience for me,” stated the actor. 

Cumberbatch then moved on to the different skills he learned specifically for The Power of the Dog

Cumberbatch’s character, Phil, is a farmhand, and so would have had many equestrian-based skills, especially due to the movie being set in 1925, meaning there was little to no help from machines or technology. 

“The horse riding and the roping and the cattle ranching, it's pretty daunting for a man as far away from my character’s lived experience as I was at the beginning. 

The Power of the Dog is on Netflix now / Picture Credit: Netflix
The Power of the Dog is on Netflix now / Picture Credit: Netflix

“But, Jane [Campion] and Tanya [Seghatchian] and everyone in the production were very secure that I get there, but said, anything you feel insecure about we’ll help you with and so I gave them a list which was endless.” 

Films like this one thrive on cooperation from both cast and crew, and it seems that Cumberbatch had no end of friendly faces who he could turn to for help regarding his role and the required skills. 

Cumberbatch discussed how spending time with someone who has “lived the life of a cowboy”, and how beneficial that was to him as an actor. 

“I went to stay with the real deal, a man and his wife, Randy and Jen, who live on the Prairie not far from the Rocky Mountains and I learned to braid, I learned to treat hide... 

“I learned to cut it and bevel it and just get it straightened, soak it and stretch it and then braid it and he's a master at that and he starts for rope all around the world, from all around the world... that was an amazing person to be with.” 

Finally, Cumberbatch told Kaderbhai how he went about playing a character from the 1920s, which must require a period of adjustment, one would think. 

The actor had quite an enlightening and modern attitude to this topic, saying that “there are many of him still in the world”, referring to his somewhat cruel character. 

“...I think if we're to teach our sons to be feminists, if we're to teach equality, if we're to understand what poisons the well in men, what creates toxic masculinity, we need to understand and look under the hood of characters like Phil Burbank.” 

Cumberbatch went on to say that the world has a “massive intolerance within the world at large towards homosexuality still, towards an acceptance of the other, of any kind of difference”, suggesting that society still has a long way to go in the way of acceptance. 

The Power of the Dog is available on Netflix now, and also stars Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. 

Watch the trailer for The Power of the Dog below:

Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal

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