First-Time Oscar Nominees Kirsten Dunst & Kodi Smit-McPhee On ‘The Power Of The Dog’s “Very Rare” Resonance, Alex Garland’s ‘Civil War,’ Baz Luhrmann’s Upcoming Elvis Pic & More

Kirsten Dunst Kodi Smit-McPhee
Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee Mega

The Power of the Dog’s Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee earned their first Oscar nominations on Tuesday for their turns in the Jane Campion film, speaking with Deadline about its stellar reception and upcoming projects including the action epic Civil War, which the former is starring in for Alex Garland, and the Untitled Elvis Presley Project from Baz Luhrmann in which the latter shot a role.

While Dunst wouldn’t disclose specifics as to the story of Civil War, she shared that the film will enter production in Atlanta in March. And while Smit-McPhee admits he only has “a small part” in Luhrmann’s Elvis film, he said he took away from it the same “reward of being challenged” that he’d found on The Power of the Dog.

Dunst said that going forward, she’d “like to work with Paul Thomas Anderson,” with Smit-McPhee expressing an interest in directing at some stage of his career. “I’m not in any rush, by any means, because I’ve seen the weight of the world is on directors’ shoulders and the amount of stress they go through,” he said. “But…I always have treated myself as a student of the universe, whether it’s in my career or in my personal life. So, I act as like a sponge on set, watching what the cinematographer is doing, what the director is doing and putting it in my back pocket to hopefully utilize one day to express my own stories.”

The Power of the Dog is Western drama based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The Netflix film centers on Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), a charismatic rancher in 1925 Montana that inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother George (Jesse Plemons) brings home a new wife (Dunst) and her son (Smit-McPhee), Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.

Dunst’s nomination today in the category of Best Supporting Actress was accompanied by a first Supporting Actor nom for her husband Plemons, with the actress enjoying the “really crazy” opportunity “to share” recognition for the film. Smit-McPhee, who is up against Plemons for Supporting Actor, said he has found the experience on the awards circuit with The Power of the Dog to be “absolutely wild

“It’s really just the gift that keeps on giving,” he said of the film, “and I don’t really have too many words that express my feelings right now, but hopefully [I’m] conveying [them] correctly.”

Dunst, who has been working as an actress since age three, noted that “it’s a very rare thing” to come upon a project like Campion’s, which has been universally embraced. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” she said. “It really is lightning in a bottle to be able to be a part of a movie that everyone really gets behind like this…so I’m really trying to enjoy every minute.”

Both actors also spoke to the joy they found in collaborating with Campion, with Dunst discussing the inspiration she’d long drawn from her film’s and the female performances therein. “Working with her and being able to give a performance that’s in the hands of someone like her is kind of all you can hope for as an actress,” she said.

“She completely recontextualized my approach, and I guess my ideas of character development, and ideas about how I would like to collaborate with a director or anyone in a creative endeavor moving forward,” added Smit-McPhee.

The Power of the Dog also claimed nominations this morning for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Cumberbatch), Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Cinematography, Editing, Sound and Original Score. The film made its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, with Campion winning the Silver Lion for Best Director. It hit U.S. theaters in limited release on November 17 and debuted globally on Netflix on December 1. Campion, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian and Emile Sherman produced it, with Rose Garnett, Simon Gillis and John Woodward exec producing. Libby Sharpe and Chloe Smith co-produced, with Phil Jones serving as associate producer.

Dunst’s competitors for Supporting Actress at the 94th Academy Awards, taking place on March 27, include Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Judi Dench (Belfast) and Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard). In addition to Plemons, Smit-McPhee is up against Ciarán Hinds (Belfast), Troy Kotsur (CODA) and J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos).

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