HomeEntertainmentBenedict Cumberbatch Opens Up About Putting His Cowboy Skills to Use in Real Life

Benedict Cumberbatch Opens Up About Putting His Cowboy Skills to Use in Real Life

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Netflix)

To pretend to be another person is one thing. To become another person is something else entirely. Not literally, of course, but for method actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s as close to literal as one can get. Method actors are so determined to embody their character, mind, body, and soul, that they push themselves to the limit to achieve the desired results.

“The limit” can mean anything from gaining or losing 50 pounds to learning a new language to living in rags for months on end. Or, if you’re Shia LaBeouf, permanently scarring your own face and undergoing unnecessary surgery to remove a perfectly healthy tooth.

Well, Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t go quite that far for his role as rancher Phil Burbank in Power of the Dog, but his commitment to the character is still shocking. Along with refusing showers, poisoning himself by chain-smoking filterless rollies, and learning to play the banjo, Cumberbatch also learned how to herd cattle.

On the red carpet of the SAG Awards, Cumberbatch was asked, “For Power of the Dog you learned many interesting skills. Including, you saved a family from a herd of cattle. What’s the story?”

Though the Sherlock star doesn’t want anyone imagining him charging down a grassy hill, guns blazing, he agrees that he was able to put his herding skills to use. “Yeah, well, that was sort of… I wouldn’t say I ‘saved their lives,'” Cumberbatch began.

“It wasn’t quite that dramatic, I wish it was because this is a live interview, but I didn’t save anybody. I just…made the cows move. They were a bit frightened of them, and I had done a bit of [cattle herding] on the film and beforehand, to learn what that life’s like because I play a rancher in Montana in 1925. So, yeah, I was being ‘Cowboy Benny’ and it kind of worked. They moved,” he says with a laugh.

Benedict Cumberbatch Talks Oscar Nominations

For those who work in the film industry, an Oscar nomination is a huge accomplishment. Hilariously, however, when Benedict Cumberbatch received his nomination, he wasn’t overjoyed…he was asleep.

On the morning of February 8, fans around the world celebrated the news: Benedict Cumberbatch earned a nomination for Best Actor for The Power of the Dog. Cumberbatch, on the other hand, was in bed with his phone turned off.

“Everyone heard about [the Oscar nomination] but me. I was asleep and I didn’t turn my phone on,” Cumberbatch told The New York Times. “I got an email last night from someone at Netflix saying, ‘Look, no matter what happens we’re so proud, it’s such a great movie and such a great performance.’ It was a lovely, beautiful email.”

Benedict Cumberbatch might be a world-famous actor, but in his mind, he’s still just a normal dad. “I’m a dad of three small boys and my wife’s in New York. So I’m trying to get them ready for school and get them in a car, get them going.”

“But I kind of realized, ‘Oh, my phone, I better get it,’ just as we were finishing breakfast,” Cumberbatch continued. “So I turned it on [starts to laugh] and explained to three slightly confused little faces what it meant and why I was giggling and smiling a lot, and they had varying responses. I don’t talk about my private life, but that it is something I’m willing to share. It was a lovely moment to have with my boys.”