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Oscar-nominated film is accused of plagiarism prior to the ceremony

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  • Oscars plagiarism controversy.
  • The Holdovers writer is accused.
  • Similarities between the scripts are questioned.

The 96th edition of the Academy Awards is overshadowed by controversy, and not because of the quality of the nominees, rather due to a serious accusation of plagiarism.

These accusations involve one of the most prominent films nominated in this year’s ceremony which takes place Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Renowned writer Simon Stephenson, known for his work on films like Luca (2021) and Paddington 2 (2017), has spoken out.

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Oscar-nominated film accused of plagiarism

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Variety recently reported that Simon Stephenson has accused director Alexander Payne and screenwriter David Hemingson of plagiarizing his script.

Stephenson goes further by stating that the plagiarism is «line-by-line,» suggesting that the similarity between the scripts is too evident to be a coincidence.

According to Variety, Stephenson’s script Frisco revolves around the story of «a drama centered on a world-weary middle-aged children’s doctor and the 15-year-old patient he gets stuck looking after…»

Stephenson’s accusations are not unfounded, as he alleges that Payne had access to the Frisco script on two occasions — first in 2013 and again in 2019.

Is The Holdovers in trouble?

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The subject of the Oscars plagiarism controversy is nominated in several categories this year.

Simon Stephenson has spoken out pointing out that the screenplay for The Holdovers shows striking similarities with his unproduced script for Frisco, a work that garnered attention when it was featured on the 2013 Black List.

The Holdovers, directed by Alexander Payne and written by David Hemingson, has been nominated in several categories at this year’s Academy Awards.

It’s up for best picture, best actor (Paul Giamatti), best supporting actress (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), best original screenplay, and best editing.

How similar is The Holdovers to Frisco?

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Stephenson’s accusations could cast a shadow over the film before the ceremony.

The plot of The Holdovers revolves around a cynical teacher at a boarding school who is forced to care for a teenager (portrayed by Dominic Sessa) during Christmas break.

Stephenson maintains that this premise bears notable similarities to his unproduced script Frisco, where a cynical pediatrician finds himself in a similar situation caring for a teenage patient over several days.

The Holdovers features a teacher, a student and a cafeteria manager who are trapped in a boarding school during Christmas vacation.

What will happen to the film?

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Oscars plagiarism controversy / PHOTO: The Associated press

The similarities between both stories have led Stephenson to speak out and accuse Payne and Hemingson of plagiarizing his work.

In 2013, Bryan Besser, the founder of the talent agency Verve, informed Stephenson that they had sent the script to a partner of Payne, who expressed appreciation but showed no interest in producing or directing it.

In addition to best original screenplay, The Holdovers is nominated for best editing and best picture — the most important award of the night.

Also, Paul Giamatti is nominated for the best actor statuette, while Da’Vine Joy Randolph is up for best supporting actress.

Statement on Oscars plagiarism controversy

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A leaked document has surfaced where the The Holdovers was accused of plagiarism due to certain similarities with the script of Frisco, according to Ámbito.

«The meaningful entirety of the screenplay for THE HOLDOVERS has been copied from the FRISCO screenplay by transposition,» the document states.

«This includes the FRISCO screenplay’s entire story, structure, sequencing, scenes, sequential sub-beats within scenes, line-by-line substance of action and dialogue, characters, arcs, relationships, theme and tone,» it reads.

«A majority of this has been done line-for-line, and a large number of unique and highly specific elements created in FRISCO are readily and unequivocally identifiable in THE HOLDOVERS.” To see more about The Holdovers click HERE.

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