The Holdovers accused of 'overwhelming' plagiarism by 'Luca' screenwriter day before Oscars

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On the eve of the Academy Awards on Sunday, best picture nominee “The Holdovers” was accused of “stolen line by line” from a decade-old screenplay for a film written a decade ago that was never produced, according to a report.

Simon Stevenson, best known for his work on the blockbuster films “Luca” and “Paddington 2,” made the shocking allegations in emails to the Writers Guild of America. Obtained by Variety.

The screenwriter claims in his letters that “The Holdovers” director Alexander Payne likely read a script for his eerily similar film “Frisco” when it made the rounds around Hollywood in 2013 on the industry's “blacklist” of most similar scripts, where it peaked at no. three.

Simon Stevenson made surprising plagiarism allegations against “The Holdovers” in emails to the Writers Guild of America. Book online
Screenwriter Simon Stevenson has accused The Holdovers of plagiarizing his 2013 script. Dave Allocca/Starbucks/Shutterstock

“The evidence that the remaining screenplay was stolen line by line from 'Frisco' is truly overwhelming — anyone who looks at even the briefest sample invariably uses the word 'slut,'” Stevenson wrote in his email to the credits director at WGA's Leslie Mackey, after talking to him about the similarities between the films.

“Frisco” is a drama about an eccentric children’s hospital worker who gets stuck watching his 15-year-old student — similar to how Paul Giamatti plays a middle school classics teacher who spends Christmas break as a troubled teen, played by Dominic. Sisa and the school cafeteria manager, played by D'Avin (Joey Randolph).

Stevenson carefully compared the two films scene by scene as well as important sequences and dialogue.

Payne allegedly revised Frisco's script in 2013 and brought it back in late 2019 before first approaching screenwriter David Hemmingson about The Holdovers. Hemingson also received production credits for the film.

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In a February 25 letter to the WGA board, Stevenson wrote: “I can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the entirety of a meaningful screenplay for a film that has received WGA-approved credits and is currently on track to win an Oscar for screenwriting has been plagiarized.” A spinoff of a famous screenplay not produced by me.

Screenwriter Simon Stevenson claims in letters that The Holdovers director Alexander Payne (pictured) likely read a script for his eerily similar film 'Frisco' when he made the rounds around Hollywood in 2013. Vianney le Kerr/Invision/AP
David Hemmingson is credited as the sole screenwriter of “The Holdovers”. Getty Images

He continued: “I can also prove that the director of the infringing film was sent and read my script on two separate occasions before the infringing film entered development.”

Stevenson claims that there are only five parts of The Holdovers that are not in Frisco's script, including, ironically, a backstory about someone getting away with plagiarism, Variety reports.

By “meaningful totality” I mean literally everything: the story, the characters, the structure, the scenes, the dialogue, everything. Some of it is insanely rude: many of the most important scenes are virtually unchanged, and even remain clearly identical in layout on the page.

An associate attorney at the WGA told him it was not a union issue and referred him to a Los Angeles law firm but told Stevenson that “a lawsuit remains the most viable option under the circumstances.”

The Holdovers was nominated for five awards at this year's Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay.

Stevenson and Payne declined to comment to Variety, and The Post could not immediately reach them.

Payne previously won Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Sideways” (2005) and “The Descendants” (2012).





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