HomeUncategorizedThe Holdovers Accused of Plagiarism by Luca Writer

The Holdovers Accused of Plagiarism by Luca Writer

Simon Stephenson, a screenwriter whose credits include Paddington 2 and Luca, says Alexander Payne’s Oscar-nominated film The Holdovers is a product of plagiarism.

According to Variety, Stephenson recently reached out to the Writers Guild of America with allegations that the screenplay for The Holdovers “has been plagiarized line-by-line” from his own script for an unmade film called Frisco.

Frisco reportedly centers on a middle-aged children’s doctor who gets stuck looking after a 15-year-old patient, while The Holdovers stars Paul Giamatti as a middle-aged boarding school teacher who is forced to look after a 15-year-old student over holiday break.

Stephenson claims that Payne read Frisco in 2013 and again 2019, but both times he passed on the script. Around 2019, Payne began developing The Holdovers with screenwriter David Hemingson.

In a letter sent to the Writers Guild of America board on February 25th, Stephenson wrote, “I can demonstrate beyond any possible doubt that the meaningful entirety of the screenplay for a film with WGA-sanctioned credits that is currently on track to win a screenwriting Oscar has been plagiarised line-by-line from a popular unproduced screenplay of mine. I can also show that the director of the offending film was sent and read my screenplay on two separate occasions prior to the offending film entering development. By ‘meaningful entirety’ I do mean literally everything- story, characters, structure, scenes, dialogue, the whole thing. Some of it is just insanely brazen: many of the most important scenes are effectively unaltered and even remain visibly identical in layout on the page.”

Per Variety, the WGA initially informed Stephenson that the organization wouldn’t get involved because Frisco had been written on spec, and instead recommended that Stephenson hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit. However, as of last week, members of WGA’s informed Stephenson that the matter was still being discussed internally.

Payne previously discussed the origins of The Holdovers during an appearance on The Rough Cut podcast last November. I had the idea for the movie — that I stole from a 1935 French movie [Merlusse] I’d seen at a film festival about a dozen years ago — and I thought ‘That’s a good premise for a movie.’ Not the story, how it pans out, but the premise. And so I was sitting on this premise for years thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go, you know, out to Eastern prep school some day and research that idea because I’m not from that world. And then about five years ago, I received, completely randomly, a TV pilot set at a boarding school [written by Hemingson]. So that’s when I called up [Hemingson] and I said, ‘Hey, you’ve written a great pilot. I don’t want to do it. But would you consider writing a story for me, set in that same world?’ — that’s how it happened.”

“I had the idea, we hashed out the idea tog- I mean the story idea together,” Payne added. “He would send me different versions of what the story could be and then I could say yes or put the kibosh on it or whatever, and then we kind of hashed it out together.”

The Holdovers is nominated for Best Original Screenplay at Sunday’s Academy Awards and is considered a favorite to win. As of Saturday, Payne and Hemingson have declined to comment on the allegations.

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