BEST PERFORMANCES

Kodi Smit-McPhee Is Having an Exceptional Year

With a Golden Globe win and a slew of nominations for The Power of the Dog, the 25-year-old is now poised for Oscar glory.

Interview by Lynn Hirschberg
Photographed by Tim Walker
Styled by Sara Moonves

Kodi Smit-McPhee wears a Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello vest and pants.
Kodi Smit-McPhee wears a Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello vest and pants.

Kodi Smit-McPhee’s journey to acting began when his father, Andy McPhee, then a professional wrestler, was asked to audition for a fast-food commercial and fell in love with the work. The elder McPhee passed his passion on to his son, whose breakthrough in Hollywood came when he was cast as a child actor opposite Viggo Mortensen in 2009’s The Road. Smit-McPhee has had steady roles ever since, including a stint as the superhero Nightcrawler in the X-Men franchise. But his turn as Peter, the shy, effeminate son of Kirsten Dunst’s character in The Power of the Dog, has propelled him to new levels of critical acclaim. For W’s annual Best Performances issue, Smit-McPhee talks meeting Tyler, the Creator, being an indecisive Gemini, and his aversion to TikTok.

How did you get involved in The Power of the Dog?

I received the Power of the Dog script. I knew that Jane Campion was attached to it already. I was quite excited. Then, when I read the story, it sent me on quite the journey of judgments, and a sense of impending doom for the character that I was to portray. I was struck by the end of it. I immediately had to go back to the beginning to make sure that what I just read was correct, and from that moment, I truly fell in love with the story.

How old were you when you started acting?

I was 8 years old when I started acting. My father got me into acting. I didn't even know how to describe it. It was extremely raw and organic. We were just in the driveway one day, working on a fence in our suburban area, and he asked me if I wanted to try acting just for fun.

Was he an actor?

Yeah. He was originally a professional wrestler. It was from being a professional wrestler that he was discovered and asked to do a Burger King commercial or something. Eventually, that became his passion and something that he found great joy in.

Have you acted with your dad?

My first project was like a short film that I was in with him. He's kind of an Easter egg in many of my movies, in the sense that he's often hidden in the background or he's an extra somewhere.

Smit-McPhee wears a Berluti jacket, shirt, pants, bowtie, and shoes; Falke socks.

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What is your sign?

I’m a Gemini: There’s two of me. I don’t know too much about Geminis, but I know I can be very indecisive. If you give me options, I’ll be there all day. I need to be told which way to go. Otherwise, I get stuck.

You seem decisive as an actor.

I am decisive as an actor. I was 10 when I was in The Road, with Viggo Mortensen. If I may be honest, part of the reason I loved acting then was because I’d get out of school.

Have you ever been starstruck?

It’s a rare occasion, but I recently ran into Tyler, the Creator, and he’s someone whom I really admire. When I first came to L.A. and I was skateboarding in Fairfax, he was my hero. He’s amazing in so many ways.

Have you ever done a dance from TikTok?

No. I have non-TikTok blood in me. That blood is going to be monetized in the future. It’s going to be the new cryptocurrency.

Have you ever slid into someone’s DMs?

No.

Do people try to slide into yours?

I don't know why, but I just don't really have that many people trying to reach out to me, whether it's social media or any of that stuff. I think I could be giving off a little bit of a scary vibe, but I don't know what it is.

Hair by Ali Pirzadeh for Dyson Hair at CLM; makeup by Daniel Sallstrom for Chanel at MA+ Group; manicure by Michelle Saunders for Nailtopia. Set Design by Gary Card at Streeters. Produced by Wes Olson and Hannah Murphy at Connect the Dots; production manager: Zack Higginbottom at Connect the Dots; photo assistants: Antonio Perricone, Jeff Gros, Morgan Pierre; digital technician: Michael Preman; lighting technician: Keith Coleman; key grip: Scott Froschauer; retouching: Graeme Bulcraig at Touch Digital; senior style editor: Allia Alliata di Montereale; senior fashion market editor: Jenna Wojciechowski; fashion assistants: Julia McClatchy, Antonio Soto, Nycole Sariol, Sage McKee, Josephine Chumley, Rosa Schorr; production assistants: Tchad Cousins, Juan Diego Calvo, Gina York, Brandon Fried, Nico Robledo, Kein Milledge; hair assistants: Tommy Stanton, Sol Rodriquez, Andi Ojeda; makeup assistants: Tami Elsombati, Bridgett O’Donnell; manicure assistant: Pilar Lafargue; set coordinator: Sarah Hein; set assistants: Olivia Giles, Seth Powsner, King Owusu; tailors: Suzi Bezik, Cardi Mooshool Alvaji; tailor assistant: Elma Click