There's something about podcasts where people just let their guard down and say anything. I wonder if it's the illusion of talking to one person in a room, or the perceived solitude, but something about it gets them to open up. Maybe it's the great interviewer across the table.
Marc Maron is a great interviewer. His podcast is a must-listen during the year, but around awards season he always gets the most guests from movies and television.
This week, Sam Elliott stopped by to talk about 1883. But when the topic swung to western movies... he had a lot more to say.
This all happens near the end of the podcast, around the one-hour mark. At first, Maron brings up The Power of the Dog, asking if he's seen it, and Elliott goes right in.
“You want to talk about that piece of shit?” Elliott says.
“You didn’t like that one?” Maron replies.
Then things heat up.
Elliott says, “Fuck no. I’ll tell you why I didn’t like it anyway. I looked at when I was down there in Texas doing 1883 and what really brought it home to me the other day—when I said, ‘Do you want to fucking talk about it?’ There was a fucking full-page ad out in the LA Times and there was a review—not a review, but a clip, and it talked about the 'evisceration of the American myth.' And I thought, ‘What the fuck? What the fuck?’ This is the guy that’s done westerns forever. The evisceration of the American west? They made it look like—what are all those dancers that those guys in New York who wear bowties and not much else. Remember them from back in the day?”
Maron supplies, "Chippendales."
Elliott says, “That’s what all these fucking cowboys in that movie look like. They’re all running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the fucking movie.”
Maron tries to explain that this is, thematically, what the film is about.
Now, it's at this point where I'll mention that none of this was pulled out of Elliott, it's really just a rant. After he trashed how Benedict Cumberbatch's character struggles with his sexuality, he also raises a concern with Jane Campion, the director, being out of her element.
“What the fuck does this woman—she’s a brilliant director, by the way, I love her work, previous work—but what the fuck does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American west? And why in the fuck does she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say, ‘This is the way it was.’ That fucking rubbed me the wrong way, pal."
'Power of the Dog' director, Jane CampionCredit: Kirsty Griffin/Netflix
He also had a problem with how the movie depicted cowboying.
Elliott says, “The myth is that they were these macho men out there with the cattle. I just come from fucking Texas where I was hanging out with families, not men, but families, big, long, extended, multiple-generation families that made their living, and their lives were all about being cowboys. And boy, when I fucking saw that [movie], I thought, 'What the fuck? Where are we in this world today?'"
Unfortunately, a lot of Elliott's opinions seem to be rooted in old-fashioned, machismo ideals of what a western man should be, and also who should be telling stories about those men. And it comes across as both homophobic and misogynistic. Maron tries to play these comments off and focus on the bigger picture.
But Elliott can't be deterred, saying, "I mean, Cumberbatch never got out of his fucking chaps. He had two pairs of chaps. A woolly pair and a leather pair. And every fucking time he would walk in from somewhere—he never was on a horse, maybe once—he'd walk into the fucking house, storm up the fucking stairs, go lay in his bed in his chaps, and play his banjo. It's like, what the fuck?"
There's a lot to unpack here. I can sense Elliott was not happy with a western picking apart manhood in ways he didn't think were befitting, and was against the idea of the project shooting in a foreign location (would love to know what he thinks of Spaghetti westerns), but it does feel like the animosity for this movie might be overstretched.
As for the "American myth" deconstruction, it sounds like he should be madder at the reviewer who said that than the movie itself. And even so, if he thinks the American myth is cowboys in work-appropriate attire all the time, and he got a movie about repressed urges and a man desperately trying to fit in... well, isn't that a deconstruction of the effortless cowboy of the past?
I wonder what Bronco Henry would have to say about all of this.
As a palette cleanser, why not listen to our podcast with The Power of the Dog editor Peter Sciberras?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Source: WTF with Marc Maron