The Real Reason Benedict Cumberbatch Refused To Shower For The Power Of The Dog

The Real Reason Benedict Cumberbatch Refused To Shower For The Power Of The Dog
Kirsty Griffin/Courtesy of Netflix

Actors can go to great lengths to deliver a memorable performance, and that includes strange on-set behavior. Sometimes that means staying in character the entire time they’re on set. Usually this is quirky method actor stuff, but sometimes these preparations can be a bit eyebrow-raising. 

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in Jane Campion’s new Western, “The Power of the Dog.” He plays Phil Burbank, a cruel 1920’s rancher who’s struggling to get over a break up. Much of the movie revolves around his relationship with his brother George (Jesse Plemons), and his jealousy over George’s marriage to a widow named Rose (Kirsten Dunst). Phil Burbank is obviously a much different person than Cumberbatch is in real life, and the actor has already shared several of the ways he got into character. For one, he refused to speak to co-star Dunst (via Yahoo). For another, he took up smoking to the point that he got nicotine poisoning (via The Guardian).

None of these compares with the most extreme way Cumberbatch prepared for the role: by not showering. Here’s why he did it.

Cumberbatch stopped showering to better embody a 1920's rancher

The Real Reason Benedict Cumberbatch Refused To Shower For The Power Of The Dog
Netflix

As Cumberbatch told The Hollywood Reporter, the character of Phil Burbank himself refuses to bathe for long stretches of time. Since Cumberbatch and Campion wanted him to fully capture the character, Cumberbatch pretty much had to follow suit. This meant going without bathing for up to six days. According to Cumberbatch, not bathing definitely did help him embody Burbank’s “amazingly sensual” and “animal nature” (via USA Today). 

Was it worth it? Benedict’s performance is already receiving Best Actor Oscar Buzz (via Deadline) — Variety currently ranks him as the third-most likely to take home the hardware, behind Will Smith (“King Richard”) and Andrew Garfield (“Tick, Tick … Boom”). So it’s hard to argue with the process. 

Still, Cumberbatch admits that being around him on-set wasn’t exactly pleasant. “[Jane Campion would] invite me out for sushi or a walk, and I was literally emanating,” Cumberbatch said. “I had a biohazard zone around me. It was not a good time to cuddle up to Cumberbatch and take a selfie.”

“The Power of the Dog” premiered on Netflix on November 17, 2021, thankfully without smell-o-vision. 

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