The Holdovers plagiarism

“Insanely brazen”: Plagiarism allegations surface against Oscar-nominated film The Holdovers

“By ‘meaningful entirety’ I do mean literally everything — story, characters, structure, scenes, dialogue, the whole thing."

The Holdovers has been nominated for five Oscars at today’s ceremony; however, claims of plagiarism have rocked the Academy.

In emails obtained by Variety, Simon Stephenson (who worked on popular family movies Luca and Paddington 2) made the allegations to the Writer’s Guild of America, stating that The Holdovers director Alexander Payne likely read a script for Stephenson’s film Frisco, which circulated Hollywood in 2013.

While the movie was never made, it holds extreme similarities to the popular Paul Giamatti flick with the screenwriter even suggesting it took words “line-by-line”.

“The evidence The Holdovers screenplay has been plagiarised line-by-line from Frisco is genuinely overwhelming – anybody who looks at even the briefest sample pretty much invariably uses the word ‘brazen,’” Stephenson penned in an email which had been sent to the WGA’s director of credits Lesley Mackey.

Frisco and The Holdovers storyline similarities

According to reports, Frisco was a drama that follows a cranky children’s hospital worker who gets stuck watching after his 15-year-old student. Sound familiar? In The Holdovers, Giamatti’s character is a school teacher who spends Christmas with a troubled teen (Dominic Sessa), and the school’s cafeteria manager (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

According to The NY Post, Stephenson compared the two films, focusing on comparing scene-by-scene, important sequences and dialogue.

“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,” Stephenson wrote to the WGA on February 25.

Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers. Universal Pictures
Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers. Universal Pictures

“I can also show that the director of the offending film was sent and read my screenplay on two separate occasions before the offending film entering development.”

He also claimed that only five parts of The Holdovers were not from his original script — including one scene that ironically involved plagiarism.

“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.”

Included in the five awards the film is nominated for is Best Screenplay.

More as we get it…

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