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PRODUCTION UK / Canada

Jane Campion announces The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Moss

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- The Palme d’Or winner is adapting Thomas Savage’s 1967 western novel for her first feature since 2009’s Bright Star

Jane Campion announces The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Moss
Director Jane Campion

After a long break, Jane Campion has finally confirmed the details of what will be her first official directorial effort for over a decade. The Power of the Dog, an adaptation of Thomas Savage’s celebrated novel, will feature Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) and Elisabeth Moss (Top of the LakeMad Men) in the lead roles, and will go into pre-production at the end of the year. 

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The news drops just in time for next week’s Cannes Film Festival, where Cross City Films will launch international sales. Rights for A-list packages of this nature can reach eight figures, based on the precedent set at the last few Cannes markets.

Garnering comparisons to Brokeback Mountain and Days of Heaven, Savage’s novel was recently reissued in the UK, where it was hailed as an unsung masterpiece of mid-century American fiction. The story follows wealthy Montana landowners Phil (Cumberbatch) and George Burbank, whose hold on the territory’s biggest ranch is upset when the latter secretly marries a mysterious young widow (Moss). 

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,” Campion said. “It will be the first time I’ve worked with a male lead, which is exciting.”

The project called on the services of a variety of eminent producers and financiers in order to come to life. Canadian producer Roger Frappier, of Max Films, originally purchased the novel’s rights and pitched the project to Campion at another recent edition of Cannes. Cold War producer Tanya SeghatchianIain Canning and Emile Sherman of the UK’s See-Saw Films, and BBC Films’ Rose Garnett then collaborated to oversee financing and physical production.

This welcome news comes amidst worries amongst Campion’s fans regarding her long absence from film. Projects such as her adaptation of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner were stuck in development hell, and she has spoken of film’s “conservatism” compared to the freedom afforded by an episodic, long-form miniseries.

Campion headed the jury of the 2014 edition of Cannes, where she awarded the Palme d’Or to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep. She remains the only female filmmaker awarded the Palme d’Or to date, for her masterpiece The Piano in 1993.

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