Benedict Cumberbatch Says He Got Nicotine Poisoning 3 Times To Stay In Character

The actor committed and then some to bring his performance in Netflix's The Power Of The Dog to life.
Rest up, Benedict.
Rest up, Benedict.
Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images

When he’s not flying around as goateed magical sorcerer with an affinity for hand choreography, Benedict Cumberbatch would like us all to know that he’s actually a very Serious Actor™.

The British star is getting the best reviews of his career and generating major Oscar buzz for his role as Phil Burbank, a hardened ranch owner in 1920s Montana at the centre of Jane Campion’s forthcoming film “The Power of the Dog.”

But these days, just acting isn’t enough to take home awards (see: Leonardo DiCaprio sleeping in animal carcasses during The Revenant), so Benedict went above and beyond to commit to the role.

In a new Esquire magazine profile published on Wednesday, the actor revealed that in addition to speaking in a specific drawl and only answering to his character’s name for the entire 12-week shoot, he actually got nicotine poisoning due to smoking real tobacco during filming.

“That was really hard,” he told the outlet about picking up the habit. “Filterless rollies, just take after take after take. I gave myself nicotine poisoning three times. When you have to smoke a lot, it genuinely is horrible.”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog.

As the 1967 novel of the same name on which the film is based on specifies, the character smoked cigarettes “perfectly rolled with one-hand,” so Benedict learned to do that, too.

In fact, he picked up a whole new set of skills, the outlet notes, including “braiding, roping, ironmongery, hide-treating, hay-stacking, whistling and whittling,” as well as the art of castrating a bull, he previously told The Hollywood Reporter.

Before production even began in New Zealand, Benedict spent time training how to “rope, ride and steer cattle” in Montana to fully immerse himself in the fictional setting.

And when the shoot was underway, Benedict went full method and wouldn’t bathe for days at a time, just like his character.

“I wanted that layer of stink on me. I wanted people in the room to know what I smelled like,” he told Esquire. “It was hard, though. It wasn’t just in rehearsals. I was going out to eat and meet friends of Jane and stuff. I was a bit embarrassed by the cleaner, in the place I was living.”

Rest assured, he’ll surely clean up (in more ways than one) when awards season kicks off next year.

The Power of the Dog, which also stars Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, hits cinemas on 19 November before premiering 1 December on Netflix.


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