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    ‘The Holdovers’ Accused Of Plagiarism As Writer Calls Oscar-Nominated Screenplay “Forensically Identical” To His

    The Oscars are set to be held this Sunday in Los Angeles. With a number of blockbuster movies like ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ nominated in various categories, including for best actors and actresses, the anticipation around the award ceremony is quite high.

    However, no award season is devoid of controversies. In the most recent development, Alexander Payne’s film The Holdovers’ has been accused of plagiarism just a couple of days ahead of the Oscars. It has been alleged that the script for ‘The Holdovers’ written by David Hemingson, which is nominated for the best original screenplay at Oscars this year, is copied from a much older script of an unproduced film.

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    Writer Simon Stephenson Says He Wrote The Holdovers Screenplay Six Years Ago For A Film Called ‘Frisco’

    Still from 'The Holdovers' (Credit: The Holdovers)
    Still from ‘The Holdovers’ (Credit: The Holdovers)

    ‘The Holdovers’ features Paul Jimeti as a cynical teacher at a boarding school, and as the story narrative unfolds, he gets stuck caring for a teenage boy played by Dominic Cesar.The story takes certain turns over the Christmas break with these two characters in focus.

    According to the writer Simon Stephenson, the script has striking similarities with his screenplay for a movie called ‘Frisco‘, which has not been produced. His story also features a cynical pediatrician who finds himself caring for a teenage patient.

    The ‘Frisco’ script did not go unnoticed as it had landed on the blacklist in 2013 because of some notorious undertones to it. But it was honored as the year’s best unproduced screenplay, and therefore still holds credibility.

    Stephenson has alleged that his script has been stolen, or at least used to base the narrative of ‘The Holdovers’ upon. He says that scenes and screenplays from both film scripts are similar in overall structure.

    The reports of plagiarism allegations were first published by Variety on Saturday, after Stephenson sent them to WGA in January to seek help. According to one of the documents, Payne was sent drafts of the script in 2013 and 2019, to get him on board the project.

    The meaningful entirety for the screenplay for the whole verse, has been copied from the Frisco screenplay by transposition,‘ claims one of the documents. This includes ‘Frisco’ screenplay’s entire story structure, sequencing scenes, sequential sub-beats with scenes, line by line substance of action and dialogue, characters, arcs, relationships, theme and tone. A majority of this has been done line for line, and a large number of unique and highly specific elements created in Frisco are readily uniquely vocally identifiable in the world over,” the statement reads.

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    Stephenson Points Multiple Similarities Between His Script And ‘The Holdovers’

    Still from 'The Holdovers' (Credit: The Holdovers)
    Still from ‘The Holdovers’ (Credit: The Holdovers)

    Along with these similarities, Stephenson also brought attention to an early moment in which the hero of the story is summoned to his boss’s office. In ‘Frisco’, the character is dressed down for wronging a politician. The same scene is also repeated in ‘The Holdovers‘ where Jametti’s character fails the son of a US senator.

    The Holdover’ script is up against ‘Maestro’, ‘Anatomy of a Fall’, ‘May December’ and ‘Past Lives’ for the Best Original Screenplay for Oscars this year. The voting window for Oscars has ended last month. So it remains uncertain what is to be done with the script after the plagiarism allegations.

    Payne and Hemingson spoke to The Hollywood Reporter last year about the movie’s origin, when Payne said that he had long wanted to make a film set in a boarding school while Hemingson had written an unproduced TV plot meeting the same requirements. The pilot script caught Payne’s eye and he called the screenwriter.

    I thought it was a prank call at first until I saw the Omaha area code and realized it actually was Alexander Payne,” Hemingson recalled at the time.

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    Aishwarya is a Senior Sub-Editor at First Curiosity. Working as a news writer for over 3 years, she has written on an array of things for a couple of media houses in different capacities. With writing as her outlet, she is now exploring the world of art and glamour. She has previously been associated with ETV Bharat and India Today as part of national editorial teams. With a fair share of work done covering national and international issues, she is now navigating through her abilities in the field of films and art. A movie and TV show buff, Aishwarya at First Curiosity tries to bring forth what a layman's eye might easily miss out on. Her flair for words and ability to convey what's between the lines are her biggest strengths. Her love for films and writing stems from her fondness for words and all things artsy. An avid reader and writer alike, Aishwarya likes to delve into any and all forms of art. When not tapping on her keyboard churning out articles, she can be found staring at books or screens, trying to find stories that'll help her explore the world and its portrayal through art better.

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