Benedict Cumberbatch, the hotter than hot British-born actor known for playing everything from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange to Alan Turing, may seem an odd choice for this blog concerning all things Lee Marvin. However, a recent project of his makes him a very good choice indeed.
The film is called The Power of the Dog (2021), directed by Oscar-winner, Jane Campion and costars Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons opening in this country on December 1st. Internationally, it has already won several major film festivals awards, which makes it destined to be an Oscar contender next year. The Oscar contention is with good reason as Jane Campion is an extraordinary director and this is her first major film in many years. If you’ve ever seen the excellent The Piano (1993) then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The premise of The Power of the Dog is another good reason for its Oscar buzz. In 1925 Montana (although filmed in New Zealand) rancher brothers Cumberbatch and Plemons encounter widow Dunst and her young son played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Dunst is courted by Plemons and they eventually marry. When Dunst and her son move in the sparks fly, but not necessarily in a good way. Apparently, macho Cumberbatch enjoys teasing and bullying Dunst’s son in front of his cowboy buddies, which builds to an apparently inevitable yet shocking conclusion.
Two distinct aspect of the film makes it a worthy entry here. First, I don’t believe Cumberbatch as ever made a western, nor looked so grizzled on film. In doing so, it certainly puts him in Lee Marvin country. Matter of fact, it strengthens my earlier assertion about him playing Marvin in a possible biopic.
The second aspect has to do with something Lee Marvin had previously stated in his Playboy interview, which you can read here. When I wrote Lee Marvin Point Blank I decided to include an appendix of films Marvin could have made had he lived longer. The Power of the Dog can be added to the list. As one recent film critic perceptively observed, “Cumberbatch summons Lee Marvin’s brash magnetic voice in creating a cowboy who’s know-it-all yet deeply confused.”
Based on the way Cumberbatch plays the character (not unlike Liberty Valance seen above), and looking as grizzled as a modern day Monte Walsh (1970), the case can be made for a Lee Marvin biopic….starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
– Dwayne Epstein