Sideways duo Paul Giamatti and director Alexander Payne are reuniting for the indie comedy The Holdovers, Collider has confirmed.
Set in 1970, The Holdovers sees Giamatti playing an unpopular history teacher at the Massachusetts prep school Deerfield Academy, where his students, fellow faculty members, and his boss find him pompous and rigid. With no family of his own and nowhere to go over Christmas break, he remains at the school to keep an eye on students who are unable to go home for the holidays. After a few days, only one stranded student remains — a smart, 15-year-old troublemaker named Angus — as well as the school’s head cook, Mary, a Black woman who recently lost her own son in Vietnam. These three very different people form an unlikely family over the Christmas break and share comic misadventures during two snowy weeks, during which time they come to realize that none of them are beholden to their past.
Deadline broke the news, reporting that Payne will direct from a script by David Hemingson and that Mark Johnson will produce the film, which will begin shooting early next year in New England. The Holdovers will be shopped to buyers at the Cannes Virtual Market next week, and seeing as how Sideways grossed more than $100 million worldwide, I expect this project to quickly find a home.
According to Deadline, Payne actually got the idea for The Holdovers after watching a 1930s French film. Since Payne had never attended boarding school, he sought out writers familiar with that experience and came across Hemingson‘s writing sample for a pilot set in a prep school. Payne pitched Hemingson his idea and they went from there, with Payne noting that the lead role is “tailor-made” for Giamatti, who “astounded” the director with his range while making 2004’s Sideways. That film earned a Best Picture nomination and won Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor an Oscar for their adapted screenplay.
“I think it’s a matter of time before [Giamatti] gets his Oscar,” Payne told Deadline.
Giamatti was previously nominated for an Oscar for his supporting turn in Cinderella Man, and he won an Emmy for his work in the John Adams miniseries on HBO. The actor currently stars on Showtime‘s acclaimed drama series Billions, and he’ll soon be seen in Disney‘s Jungle Cruise and Netflix‘s female-driven action movie Gunpowder Milkshake. He has also wrapped the indie drama A Mouthful of Air with Amanda Seyfried.
Payne last directed the 2017 flop Downsizing starring Matt Damon, though he did serve as an executive producer on last year’s indie movies The Last Shift and Small Town Wisconsin. Payne had been slated to direct Emma Stone in Searchlight‘s darkly comedic thriller The Menu, though he exited that project last year and was replaced by Mark Mylod, who subsequently cast Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes in the film. The inexplicable Downsizing aside, Payne is a solid director and I hope he finds his groove again with this modest indie movie, which sounds interesting to this Boston boy.