For many actors, stepping on set and taking on the role of a character isn’t enough. To give the best performance possible, they have to become the character. This leads to actors picking up some interesting, oftentimes dangerous, habits and learning a variety of new skills in preparation for their roles. Benedict Cumberbatch is one such actor, and picked up an unusual skill for his role as a charismatic rancher, Phil Burbank – cattle herding.
You would think that unless Cumberbatch became a real-life ranch hand, this skill would be completely useless off-set…but, hilariously, you would be incorrect. In a recent interview with People, the Power of the Dog star recounted a recent incident in which his cattle-herding skills came in handy.
“I came back from shooting the film in August and we were off to the beach,” Cumberbatch recalls. “To get there we had to cross a field, and in the field was a petrified family who just couldn’t move. They were frozen because of a herd of cows with calves. I thought, ‘I can do this,’ and I just sort of parted the waves of cattle. The family was like, ‘That was incredible. Hey, aren’t you Sherlock?’ It was very un-Sherlock activity!”
Benedict Cumberbatch Talks Preparing for ‘The Power of the Dog’
Going as far as to learn how to herd cattle for a movie role is impressive by itself. However, that’s just one of many skills and habits Benedict Cumberbatch picked up for his role in The Power of the Dog. The Sherlock star is nothing if not thorough.
One such skill is banjo-playing, which Cumberbatch somehow learned to play in about a month. “The most painful thing to me, if I’m f—— honest, it trying to pretend I can play the banjo,” Cumberbatch revealed of his movie preparations. “[Phil Burbank] is someone who has done it all in their life, and I’m trying to master it in four weeks or something stupid. That’s tough.”
The Doctor Strange star was so devoted to becoming Phil Burbank that he developed a smoking habit for the role. Rather than smoking fake cigarettes, Cumberbatch stuck to the real thing. And unsurprisingly, the constant stream of cigarettes didn’t come without consequences.
Cumberbatch recalls his now-past 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.”
Are you horrified yet? No? Well, get ready. Because Benedict Cumberbatch took it yet another step further for The Power of the Dog. In order to truly step into Phil Burbank’s manure-crusted shoes, Cumberbatch stopped showering. “I wanted that layer of stink on me,” Cumberbatch said. “I wanted people in the room to know what I smelt like. It was hard, though… It wasn’t just in rehearsals. I was going out to eat and meet friends and stuff. I was a bit embarrassed by the cleaner, in the place I was living.”