‘The Power of the Dog’: Benedict Cumberbatch Didn’t Bathe and Gave Himself Nicotine Poisoning 3 Times to Play Phil Burbank

Benedict Cumberbatch previously entered the Academy Awards conversation in 2014’s The Imitation Game. He brought the world more Doctor Strange, Sherlock Holmes, and other big roles ever since. Cumberbatch is back in the game with Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog playing Phil Burbank. He admitted that he didn’t bathe and gave himself nicotine poisoning three times in the process of making his performance authentic.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Phil Burbank in ‘The Power of the Dog’

The Power of the Dog follows a charismatic rancher named Phil (Cumberbatch). He lives with his brother, George (Jesse Plemons), who marries a woman named Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) soon after meeting her. She moves in with the Burbanks along with her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Phil ultimately discovers a love that he never would have expected.

Phil isn’t the nicest guy. He torments Rose and Peter for quite some time. He especially bullies the young man for crafting paper flowers for the table. They ultimately grow a close connection over time and a romance develops. However, Peter doesn’t forget how Phil tortured his mother and isn’t willing to let that go so easily.

Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t bathe and gave himself nicotine poisoning 3 times

Esquire interviewed Cumberbatch to talk about playing Phil in The Power of the Dog. He discussed the level of commitment that he had in making the role as authentic as possible for the screen. Cumberbatch stayed in character for the duration of The Power of the Dog, which takes place in Montana. He wouldn’t even respond to his real name.

“I wanted that layer of stink on me,” Cumberbatch said. “I wanted people in the room to know what I smelt like. It was hard, though. It wasn’t just in rehearsals. I was going out to eat and meet friends of Jane and stuff. I was a bit embarrassed by the cleaner, in the place I was living.”

Cumberbatch also learned how to properly roll cigarettes with one hand to stay true to the text.

“That was really hard,” Cumberbatch said. “Filterless rollies, just take after take after take. I gave myself nicotine poisoning three times. When you have to smoke a lot, it genuinely is horrible.”

However, he couldn’t quite improve on his banjo skills while filming The Power of the Dog. “I really wanted to become world-class at the banjo,” Cumberbatch said. “And I’m very much not. I’m very far off.”

‘The Power of the Dog’ is dominating awards conversations

The Power of the Dog dominated many awards conversations over the end of 2021. Belfast was an early front-runner, although Campion’s western earned high marks from critics and audiences. The performances and the film itself earned high praise from critics circles and other awards nominations around the world.

The 94th Academy Awards hits television screens on Sunday, March 24. As a result, there’s still some time left for audiences who haven’t seen the movie to check it out. The Power of the Dog is very likely to continue its domination of awards conversations leading up to Hollywood’s biggest night.

The Power of the Dog is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

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