Following the announcement of his Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination Tuesday morning, The Holdovers screenwriter David Hemingson revealed to Deadline that some dialogue and scenes were taken verbatim from his own life.
Hemingson had originally written a pilot based on his own boarding school experience before connecting with director Alexander Payne and developing The Holdovers script. The Focus Features film follows Paul Hunham, a beleaguered boarding school Classics teacher who has retreated into misanthropy, until he is forced to take care of a student (Dominic Sessa) over the holiday break, with the help of the school cook (Oscar nominee Da’Vine Joy Randolph).
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Speaking with Deadline in the wake of the nominations announcement, Hemingson recalled the dialogue and scenes borrowed from his real-life uncle, a man he says was filled with “quiet heroisim”.
“I feel like so much of him is in the movie,” Hemingson said. “I mean, so much of the dialogue and things that he would say to me, like, ‘Life is like a henhouse ladder—shitty and short,’ or, ‘Sex is 99% friction, 1% goodwill.’ That was all him.”
Some scenes were taken from events in Hemingson’s childhood, too. “The encounter with the hooker, which was at the bookshop in Boston, actually happened to me on First Avenue and 30th Street with [my uncle] when I was seven years old. This woman walked up on an incredibly cold day and solicited and said, ‘The kid can wait around the corner.’ That is an actual incident from my life. The cherries jubilee thing is something that happened to me with my mother. So many of the things in the movie are just a love letter to my mom and my uncle and my dad.”
Aside from this first-time nomination for Hemingson, The Holdovers is Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Lead Actor (Paul Giamatti) and Supporting Actress (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).
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