Jesse Plemons says Benedict Cumberbatch’s Method acting as the gruff Phil Burbank while shooting “The Power of the Dog” definitely intensified their on-camera dynamic. “It creates a mood,” Plemons tells me from Austin, where he is filming “Love & Death,” HBO Max’s original limited series about Texas housewife Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen), who murdered a fellow churchgoer with an ax in 1980. “It kind of starts creeping in and in between in one way or another,” he says.
In the Netflix film, written and directed by Jane Campion and based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name, Cumberbatch plays a wealthy rancher in 1925 Montana who grieves for Bronco Henry, his late mentor and probable lover. His repressed feelings cause him to horrifically bully his brother (Plemons), his sister-in-law, Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Plemons admits that Cumberbatch unknowingly almost took things too far. “There was one time he got under my skin,” he says. “He was like, ‘Hey, big boy.’ It wasn’t ‘fatso.’ I feel like a few people in life have been like, ‘Hey, big boy,’ and I was like, ‘Goddamn it. What the fuck.’”
Later, while the cast was enjoying dinner, Cumberbatch apologized when Plemons told him the remark “pissed me off.” “He was like, ‘I’m so sorry,’” Plemons says in an English accent, laughing. “I was like, ‘No, don’t worry. It was great.’”
Cumberbatch may have been sorry, but Phil Burbank not so much. “Everyone was on the same page,” Cumberbatch says. “I was introduced to the crews as ‘Phil.’ Jane would say, ‘This is Phil. You’re going to be working with Phil. Benedict is really nice but you’re going to me meet him at the end of the shoot.’ That just gave me permission to commit to this character whose behavior is at times repugnant, and not feel apologetic or embarrassed or self conscious about it in any way.”
Cumberbatch would usually keep his distance from his co-stars. Plemons recalls hanging on set with Dunst and Smit-McPhee but Cumberbatch “would be off in his corner braiding or doing whatever he was doing or rolling cigarettes. I think it was really helpful.”
The film is up for 10 Critics Choice Awards and just this morning, nabbed three SAG Award nominations for Cumberbatch, Dunst and Smit-McPhee. Plemons almost wasn’t in the movie — he was originally attached to the film, but was replaced by Paul Dano due to scheduling conflicts. Eventually, he was able to return to the movie. “I read the script before I read the book. That was pretty early on in the process,” Plemons says. “I was absolutely blown away by the script. It was probably the best script I’d read in quite a few years. With any good script you feel like you’re transported into a world that you want to stay in, and she had done just that.”
One might assume that filming intimate scenes with your director’s husband is a tad uncomfortable. “It wasn’t awkward at all,” says Jessie Buckley, who had to do exactly that when she played lovers with Peter Sarsgaard in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s feature directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter.” “You just put yourself aside, and you just do it. … We’re both grown-up enough to just really tell the story,” Buckley tells me by phone from the Playhouse Theatre in the West End, where she’s starring in a revival of “Cabaret” as Sally Bowles opposite Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee. “I thought it was kind of rock ’n’ roll. I thought, ‘Wicked! Good for you!’ They’ve been married for ages, and they respect each other so much as artists, and I thought how cool for both of them to hold that space and think, ‘Let’s just make something great together.’”
While Buckley says she is “inspired and empowered” by Gyllenhaal, who also wrote the screenplay, she isn’t ready to jump into directing anytime soon. “I think you have to come to that at the right time,” she explains. “Right now I don’t feel that. I was talking to someone who interviewed her once like 15 years ago and she said at the time, ‘Oh, I would never.’ I’m really glad she eventually did. Obviously, she really needed to tell the story.”
In London, Buckley and the cast and crew of “Cabaret” have had to face COVID head-on. They shut down for two weeks after just one performance when a member of the backstage crew tested positive. Pandemic aside, Buckley admits she tried to convince herself many times not to do the show because she was “terrified” of taking on the iconic Sally Bowles, which earned Liza Minnelli an Oscar for the 1972 film adaptation. “I have continued to tell them that I really just want to come and watch this and not be in it,” she says, laughing.
That said, she’s hoping she and Redmayne will jump the pond for a run on Broadway. “I’m not sure yet but I would love that,” Buckley says. “I wouldn’t stop crying, for sure.”
With the “Fraggle Rock” series reboot “Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock” attracting guest stars like Cynthia Erivo, Patti LaBelle, Ed Helms, Kenan Thompson and Daveed Diggs, series executive producer John Tartaglia is already brainstorming who he wants if the Apple TV Plus show gets a second season. “More than anything, I want Celine Dion as a Fraggle. At this point, I think I’ve annoyed everyone to the gills because I don’t shut up about Celine Dion,” he says. “Dolly Parton is the other one. We have a background Fraggle who I sometimes jokingly call Dolly because she’s got this very bright shock of hair and it’s very long, and this, like, feather-boa outfit.” The reboot bows Jan. 21.
SIGHTING: “Pose” star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez celebrating her birthday with cocktails at the Lobby Bar at The West Hollywood Edition before having dinner at John Fraser’s Ardor restaurant.
New York stage performer Ryan Raftery continues his celebrity bio-musical series with “The Trial of Andy Warhol” at Joe’s Pub starting Feb. 20. Raftery, whose past subjects include Andy Cohen, Calvin Klein, Martha Stewart and Anna Wintour, now takes aim at the late artist and how he’s responsible for the modern concept of fame, which has been taken to new heights by social media.
Additional reporting by Salome Hailu.