I’ve just finished reading a mind-blowing Variety article by Tatiana Siegel (posted on 3.9 at 10:13 am) that contains chapter-and-verse charges of plagiarism against either Holdovers director Alexander Payne or Holdovers screenwriter David Hemingson, or both.

The complaining, allegedly plagiarized screenwriter is Simon Stephenson, who has a “story by” credit on Pixar’s Luca (’21), an “additional material” credit on StudioCanal’s Paddington 2 (’17), and a “screenplay and story by” credit on an Amazon original feature titled The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (’21).

The particulars are too voluminous to be recounted or even compressed here, but the basic allegation is that Payne read a very similar 2013 script by Stephenson called Frisco, which was on the 2013 Black List roster, and that (this is directly from the Siegel article) “Payne had [read] the Frisco script in both 2013 and again in late 2019, right before Payne approached Hemingson about collaborating on [The Holdovers]. That contention seems to be backed up by emails involving several Hollywood agencies and producers.”

The Siegel article contains a 33-page “Introductory Document” titled “FRISCO and THE HOLDOVERS,” and it pains me to admit that it seems — emphasis on the “s” word — fairly damning in its particulars.

I can only urge HE readers to go over the Siegel article with a fine tooth comb and try to assess the evidence as best they can.

Speaking for myself I find the mere suspicion of the great Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska, Downsizing, The Holdovers) having deliberately engaged in out-and-out plagiarism just inconceivable. It can’t be what it seems. It just can’t be.

First-rate auteurs and their collaborators simply don’t behave this recklessly and foolishly, especially when there’s a paper trail and chapter-and-verse evidence this vivid and specific. Stealing from a 2013 Black List script is just insanity…self-destructive insanity.