Benedict Cumberbatch Says He Got Nicotine Poisoning Three Times Filming ‘The Power of the Dog’

by Clayton Edwards

The Power of the Dog is already making waves on the festival circuit. Jane Campion took home the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival back in September. Since then, the movie has captivated everyone who watches it. Some reviewers are calling it a “brutal psychodrama.” Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), a skilled but sadistic Montana rancher spurs that brutality on. For a large portion of the film, he revels in the mental anguish he causes his brother’s new wife and her son. Cumberbatch did everything he could to get deep into Burbank’s mind. He turned to method acting to sink deep into the character and present a sinister and captivating performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch is far from the first A-lister to use method acting. Daniel Day-Lewis, arguably one of the best actors in modern cinema, uses this method regularly to great effect. In method acting, actors live as their characters. For Cumberbatch, that meant learning many of Phil Burbank’s skills, hobbies, and vices.

One of the things that Benedict Cumberbatch had to do for the role was smoke. No big deal, right? Tobacco-free prop cigarettes are readily available. However, Cumberbatch was having none of that. The AV Club reports that the source material shows Burbank rolling his own cigarettes one-handed. So, Benedict followed suit. He learned to roll cigarettes from real tobacco with one hand.

“That was very hard,” Benedict Cumberbatch told Esquire about smoking for The Power of the Dog. “Filterless rollies, just take after take. I gave myself nicotine poisoning three times.” About smoking that much for the role, Cumberbatch said, “It genuinely is terrible.”

Benedict Cumberbatch Gave Himself Nicotine Poisoning. What Is It?

Nicotine poisoning or being “nic-sick” is what happens when a person has too much nicotine in their system. The symptoms come on fairly quickly. The first hour sounds downright horrible. Benedict Cumberbatch could have experienced, excess saliva, feeling nauseous, stomach ache, and a loss of appetite. That sounds rough, but not so bad. However, it gets worse. Other early symptoms include vomiting, dehydration, tremors, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, and increased heart rate, according to Medical News Today. That’s just within the first hour.

Then, other symptoms set it. After about an hour those with nicotine poisoning can expect low blood pressure, slow heart rate, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, and shallow breathing among other things. Benedict Cumberbatch dealt with this three times while shooting a movie.

How much did Benedict Cumberbatch have to smoke to get nicotine poisoning? Well, smoking isn’t on the list of the most common causes of the condition. Most people get nicotine poisoning after eating cigarettes or consuming liquid nicotine. Cumberbatch was obviously invested in the role.

The Power of the Dog hits select theaters November 17th and will go to Netflix on December 1st.