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Write On: 'The Holdovers' Writer David Hemingson

November 10, 2023
3 min read time

Director Alexander Payne’s new film The Holdovers, is set in the 1970s and tells the story of a grumpy ancient history instructor (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who’s forced to remain on campus during the Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually, he forms an unlikely bond with one of the students, an oddball troublemaker (Dominic Sessa), and the school’s cafeteria lady (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), whose son was recently killed in Vietnam. 

We speak to screenwriter David Hemingson about getting a very unexpected call from Alexander Payne (which at first he thought was a prank!) asking him to write the screenplay after reading one of his original TV pilots. Hemingson talks about his journey to craft just the right characters for the story, how to make their arcs feel authentic and give them meaningful, emotional lives.  

“The movie is a love story. I wanted these people to fall in love and do right by each other. Different people, from very different backgrounds with different problems and histories but they find a way, almost impossibly, certainly improbably, to come together over this small period and fall in love with each other and kind of save each other. I want to believe that’s possible,” says Hemingson. 

He also talks about bringing his own personal experience to the story even when it’s emotionally challenging. 

“I need to get to the place where I am very heartbroken about what’s happening on the page and really feeling it. There’s an honesty to it,” he says. 

To go deeper into the screenplay, take a listen to the podcast. 


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