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Jane Campion Casts Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Moss in ‘Chilling’ Thomas Savage Adaptation

The pair will star in Campion's take on "The Power of the Dog," a revenge story with some horrifying twists.

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After a decade of being absent from the big screen, Jane Campion is readying her first feature since 2009’s “Bright Star.” Campion will next direct her own adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel, “The Power of the Dog,” and she’s already lined up two big names to bring the story to life. Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Moss will star in the film — which boasts at least one more starring role, still to be cast — which has been billed as “a chilling story of desire, control, and revenge with a sting in the tail that lingers long after it reaches its electrifying conclusion.”

Per the film’s official synopsis: “Wealthy Montana brothers Phil (Cumberbatch) and George Burbank are two sides of one coin. Phil is graceful, brilliant, and cruel where George is stolid, fastidious, and gentle. Together they are joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley. It is a place where men are still men, the rapidly modernizing 20th century is kept at bay and where the figure of Bronco Henry, the greatest cowboy Phil ever knew, is revered. When George secretly marries local widow Rose (Moss), a shocked and angry Phil wages a sadistic, relentless war to destroy her entirely using her effeminate son Peter as a pawn.”

In an official statement, Campion said, “’The Power of the Dog’ is a sublime novel that deserves a life on the big screen. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, it really haunted me. The themes of masculinity, nostalgia, and betrayal are an intoxicating mix. It’s also rare to find a story where the themes, the plot and the characters build tension as they reveal each other and even the end is satisfying and unexpected.”

She added, “It will be the first time I’ve worked with a male lead, which is exciting. Phil is a charismatic and complex character who declares war on his brother’s new wife and her teenage son.” While it will be the first time that Campion has focused much of her attention on a male character — and Phil is a character with secrets to spare — she’s long populated her films with complex male stars, from “Bright Star” to “The Piano.”

The project is a See-Saw Films and Big Shell Films Production/a Max Films Production in association with Brightstar. An official press release note that the project originated with producer Roger Frappier of Max Films, who first had the rights to the novel by Savage, and asked Campion himself to make the film when they met at Cannes.

Campion has brought on her own team to produce as well, including producer Tanya Seghatchian of Brightstar and producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning of See-Saw Films. The project has been developed with BBC Films, which is also backing production. BBC Films’ Rose Garnett, See-Saw’s Simon Gillis and Brightstar’s John Woodward will serve as executive producers.

Campion previously won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for “The Piano” starring Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel, and Sam Neill. Campion also became the first, and to date only, female director to be awarded the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for that same film. “The Power of the Dog” will return Campion to her Cannes home in the coming weeks, as See-Saw Films’ in-house sales arm Cross City Films will be launching sales at the festival. The film is scheduled to go into pre-production at the end of the year.

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