The Power Of The Dog Stars Kristen Dunst And Jesse Plemons Weren't Part Of The Initial Casting Plans

Director Jane Campion's "The Power of the Dog" — which, for those who are unaware, has absolutely nothing to do with lovable canines; for that, you're better off watching Channing Tatum's aptly-titled "Dog" — is arguably the frontrunner to win Best Picture at the 94th annual Academy Awards. Campion herself has received her second directing Oscar nod (a historical first) for her efforts behind the camera on the emotionally-intense neo-western, with stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee all up for Academy Awards for their respective performances in the film.

For Dunst, "The Power of the Dog" marks her long-overdue first Oscar nod for acting after years of great performances as both a child actor and an adult. That she received the nomination for the same film as her real-life partner Plemons (who's also a first-time Oscar nominee) makes it all the more meaningful, especially because the duo also play a romantic couple in the film. However, that almost didn't happen, as producer Tanya Seghatchian recently reminded Variety:

"We'd set out to make the film with two different leads in the roles that are played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. And unfortunately — the bane of all producers' lives — schedules changed and we lost the two people who were going to play those roles and were lucky enough to get Kirsten and Jesse. And I think that what Kirsten and Jesse bring to the film is actually monumental. They're both phenomenal actors and were able to bring something extra special, and their own partnership was a love story in its own right. They're real-life partners, as well as partners in the film. They bring the heart and soul and hope for the future into the film."

Who almost starred in the film

Adapted from Thomas Savage's 1967 novel of the same name, "The Power of the Dog" stars Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank, a wealthy but cruel man who operates a ranch with his soft-spoken brother George (Plemons) in Montana circa 1925. When George marries a widowed inn owner named Rose Gordon (Dunst), a resentful Phil takes to psychologically tormenting her and mocking her son, Peter (Smit-McPhee), for his so-called "effeminate" manner. However, in spite of his jealousy, Phil begins to grow closer to Peter, even as the latter (who has a dark side himself) uncovers deeply-buried secrets about his uncle-in-law that could prove to be his downfall.

Although Seghatchian didn't mention them by name, it's long been known that Elisabeth Moss ("The Handmaid's Tale," "The Invisible Man") and Paul Dano (seen above in "There Will Be Blood" and soon to be seen in "The Batman") were once in talks to play Rose and George before scheduling conflicts forced both of them to drop out, with Dunst and Plemons taking their places. I've no doubt that Moss and Dano would have been fine as the lonely, class-divided lovers in "The Power of the Dog." They're both good actors, and I don't think that anybody's ever given a flat-out bad performance in a film directed by Campion. But at the same time, Dunst and Plemons are pitch-perfect in the movie, enough so that it's fair to say this worked out for the best for everyone involved.

"The Power of the Dog" is streaming on Netflix. The Oscar ceremony will air on ABC on March 27, 2022, before streaming on Hulu the day after.