• Golden Globe Awards

Winners Circle 2022: Nominee Profile 2022: Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

It is very difficult to miss Kodi Smit-McPhee in a crowd because of his 6’1” tall height and his slim, willowy frame.
It is not much easier to forget his portrayal of the gentle, soft-spoken, effeminate but self-assured Peter Gordon in the Jane Campion western movie as he is pitted against a rugged, toxic, abusive and alcoholic Phil Burbank (portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) in The Power of the Dog. Smit-McPhee got his first Golden Globe nomination for this role in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Born on June 13, 1996, in Adelaide, South Australia to Sonja Smith and Andy McPhee, an actor and a former professional wrestler, Smit-McPhee has an older sister who is also an actress-singer, Sianoa Smit-McPhee.
He started acting professionally at the tender age of eight in his native Australia, and then made his feature film debut alongside Eric Bana in 2007s Romulus, My FatherViggo Mortensen in the dystopian thriller, The Road. Earning praise as a promising young actor, he went on to act in Let Me In with Chloe Grace Moretz in 2010, and then in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014 opposite Andy Serkis and Gary Oldman.
At age 16, Smit-McPhee was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis, but this did not stop him from pursuing his dream and career as an actor.
He played Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016 and reprised the role in Dark Phoenix in 2019.
Now 25, Smit-McPhee is gaining attention for his portrayal of Peter Gordon in Campion’s movie, which is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel The Power of the Dog.
Written and directed by Campion, the movie also stars Kirsten Dunst (Rose Gordon), Jesse Plemons (George Burbank) and Keith Carradine (Governor Edward).
At a Q & A after the screening of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, Smit-McPhee revealed how he got involved in the project and how it was working with the auteur Campion.
“I very quickly read through the script, fell in love with it, and read through it again, with that ending,” he said. Smit-McPhee revealed that Campion asked him to talk to her as the character, Peter Gordon, during the audition. “I equally saw her falling in love with seeing Peter come to life in front of her eyes. That was a very humbling feeling and experience,” he said.
He described Campion as an absolute master who has taken him beyond the usual limitations and boundaries that he has had as an actor. “She did it in such a way that at first, it felt a little uncomfortable in terms of getting out of that comfort zone. But then in that same thought, I reminded myself who I’m with and I was in the presence of. It’s just her aura. You completely can trust to that, and go with the flow, and have fun with it.”
He said that he has tried a lot of different techniques, body movement specialists, and accent coaches which added more to his performance of Peter than he could have ever expected or imagined.
While the film examines masculinity, it reveals itself in an unusual way for Smit-McPhee’s character Peter, whom Cumberbatch described as a “lily-livered thing” whom his character, Phil, has underestimated: Peter ultimately shows that he has a real core of will and strength in him.
Smit-McPhee admitted, “Personally, it isn’t too far from home. I’m a bit strange myself, gone through school like that, and the world of this industry. Being in front of so many eyes like this, you just have to completely embrace that side of yourself. I saw something in Peter that I looked up to and I wanted to represent.”
As for his least favorite scene, Smit-McPhee revealed that there was an intimate scene at the end where Benedict had to throw him a pack of cigarettes – a challenge since he couldn’t see from his left eye. “We were there running out of time. We’re all trying to get home. It had been a long day and we did at least 20 takes of me trying to catch that.”
Smit-McPhee shared that he wanted to play Peter because it gave him an opportunity to own himself, and the things that he has experienced in himself that maybe are not widely accepted in society, “He taught me that we don’t all necessarily have to fit in a box, and that’s okay. We can be confident about that.”
Growing up with his sister and mother when his parents divorced, Smit-McPhee admitted that “I’m a very feminine guy, and that’s something that I confidently embrace in my life.”
He said that it boosted a lot of his artistic side and creativity. “It’s something that I’ve had to learn to embrace and love about myself. I don’t need to change that.”