Jane Campion calls Sam Elliott a ‘sexist’ for his ‘The Power of the Dog’ comments
It appears the battle over who gets to tell (and critique) the traditionally hyper-masculine stories portrayed in American Westerns is alive and, well, annoyingly sexist in 2022.
On Saturday, March 12, Academy Award-winning director Jane Campion put actor Sam Elliott on blast for derogatory remarks he made recently about her new cowboy movie The Power of the Dog on the February 28 episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. It happened during an interview with Variety as Campion walked the red carpet line at the 2022 Directors Guild Awards.
Elliot, a longtime movie cowboy who may be best known for his brief appearance in The Big Lebowski, disparaged the 2022 Oscar frontrunner as a “piece of shit” for centering on homoerotic themes. The actor continued with other questionable justifications for his dislike of the New Zealand director’s take on an American Western, which notably earned Campion one of the top awards at Saturday’s ceremony and which also seems like a shoe-in to win at least some of the 12 Academy Award nominations it’s up for this year, including one for Best Director.
“He was being a bit of a B-I-T-C-H,” she told Variety when asked about the comments. “I’m sorry to say it, but Sam’s not a cowboy. He’s an actor.”
Campion went on to call out the underlying misogyny of Elliott questioning her right to subvert the American myths embedded in the Western genre, which he claimed rubbed him the wrong way because she’s a foreigner who shot the movie in her home country of New Zealand. “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 know about the American west?” he raged to Maron.
As Campion rebutted, though, “The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range… And I think it’s a little bit sexist.”
There’s a double standard evident in Elliott gatekeeping Campion from the genre on the basis of her being a foreigner. Especially since, as she herself points out, renowned Italian director Sergio Leone, architect of the “Spaghetti Western,” famously shot some of the genre’s most celebrated classics in Spain.
If anything, the genre’s history has been uniquely defined by a global exchange of perspectives on this American mythos, as evidenced by the mutual inspiration shared between Western directors and Japanese Samurai movie directors. Further, Elliott’s comments ignore the highly relevant detail that Taiwanese-American filmmaker Ang Lee won an Oscar himself for 2005’s even more explicitly homoerotic cowboy movie, Brokeback Mountain.
With all that missing context, Elliott’s disrespectful dismissal of Campion’s take on such an inherently international genre sounds a lot more like grasping for slightly less bigoted excuses explaining why he thinks American Westerns shouldn’t be queer or directed by women.
“I consider myself a creator,” Campion continued. “And I think [Elliott] sees me as a woman or something less first. And I don’t appreciate that.”