Paul Giamatti On The Ballyhoo Of Reuniting With Alexander Payne


  • The Holdovers is a poignant portrayal of 1970, a time marked by civil strife, war, and a sense of uncertainty among young people.
  • The film highlights the impact of national anxiety on the innocence of adolescents, while also exploring the importance of living life in uncertain times.
  • Paul Giamatti’s character represents a history professor who recognizes the historical context and strives to give people the opportunity to live their lives, amidst the challenges of the era.

At a prestigious boarding school in New England, not everyone gets to go home for Christmas vacation. Those left behind are the namesake of The Holdovers, the new film from director Alexander Payne and writer David Hemingson. Paul Giamatti stars as Professor Paul Hunham, a well-meaning, uptight, and generally disliked by both students and fellow faculty. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s stuck with a handful of students who wind up having to remain on campus for winter break. However, as he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a troubled student named Angus (Dominic Sessa), his own emotional armor begins to unravel, revealing the vulnerable, funny, and empathetic man underneath.

The Holdovers is a beautiful and melancholy snapshot of 1970, a time of civil strife, international war, and a fractured sense of patriotism, particularly among young people. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement (represented by Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s character), young people fresh out of high school were sent off to Vietnam to fight and die in one of the most controversial conflicts in American history. This wide-ranging national anxiety underscores the adolescent innocence of The Holdovers. As a result, Giamatti’s character, a history professor who understands the context of his present era, comes to understand a simple truth: in this era of uncertainty, people deserve the chance to live their lives.

Related: The Holdovers Review: Giamatti & Newcomer Dominic Sessa Are Alive With Chemistry

Screen Rant interviewed Paul Giamatti about his work on The Holdovers. He spoke about how the script was specifically written with him in mind and his own family history of academia. He discussed the relationship between teachers and students, and the importance of education in turning children into adults. Finally, he expounded on working with Alexander Payne again for the first time since 2004’s Sideways.

Paul Giamatti Talks The Holdovers

Screen Rant: I got to talk to David Hemingson a while ago, and he talked about how this script was made with you in mind. So, does that mean that you know exactly what you’re supposed to do, or do you still have to workshop and work to find your guy?

Paul Giamatti: That’s interesting. In some ways, I think yes, there was a lot that I knew that I could draw on. The background that I have, people in my family who are teachers and academics, and I went to a school like this, that’s all true. That said, there’s still a lot of work I’ve gotta do. But that was all in the script. Where I’ve gotta go and stuff, it’s all in the script. But it was nice to have something that was so immediately, imaginatively available to me. It was kinda cool! I don’t think I’d ever really felt like that, like something was, “Oh yeah, I remember what these guys were like, I remember what they dressed like. I remember they had a pipe. I remember that guy had a comb-over.” And the way that they would talk, and stuff like that, it was very present to me.

Screen Rant: Teachers are tough.

Paul Giamatti: Yeah.

Screen Rant: It’s another thing I talked to David about. We have this, maybe paradoxical relationship with teachers and school and learning in general. We kinda hate doing it, but we wind up carrying it with us forever.

Paul Giamatti: Yup! And sometimes these guys who seem strict, some of the people I remember who were the strictest and kind of the most rigorous, are the ones I actually remember the best, and are the ones I actually look at now and think, I’m actually very grateful that guy was so rigorous, and I remember what this person taught me. You know? So it’s important. This guy goes too far, I think is the problem with this guy, but other than that, I think he means well. I think he cares about teaching! Too much, maybe. But it could be worse.

Screen Rant: There was some hubbub, some hullabaloo, even some ballyhoo-

Paul Giamatti: Wow! Nicely done!

Screen Rant: About you and Alexander Payne working together almost two decades after, as William Shatner put it on your fantastic Chinwag podcast, “The wine movie.”

Paul Giamatti: Thank you for mentioning the Chinwag podcast, thank you very much, sir, and thank you for listening! Yes, there’s ballyhoo, there’s hullabaloo, there’s hubbub.

Screen Rant: Is it like riding a tandem bike together, are you back? Or do you have to relearn everything?

Paul Giamatti: No, it was actually even more in place. It was even easier. We became friends. I’ve seen him over the years, but as a friend! So that got really built in and deepened. So when it comes back, now, to working again, it’s like, “Oh, here’s this guy that I can…” And it ends up feeling like I’m hanging out with a friend of mine, and I happen to be making a movie with him. Which is kinda what he makes it feel like anyway. But that’s an awesome thing. I can’t… I feel super lucky that I have that in my life with him. It’s crazy. I don’t know how that happened, but it’s a good thing.

Screen Rant: And we, the audience, are super lucky that you have that thing, too.

About The Holdovers

Dominic Sessa and Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers
Dominic Sessa and Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers

From acclaimed director Alexander Payne, THE HOLDOVERS follows a curmudgeonly instructor (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually he forms an unlikely bond with one of them — a damaged, brainy troublemaker (newcomer Dominic Sessa) — and with the school’s head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

Check out our other interview with Da’Vine Joy Randolph.

The Holdovers in now playing in theaters.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • The Holdovers Poster

    The Holdovers

    Release Date:

    Alexander Payne

    Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa, Carrie Preston


    133 Minutes

    Comedy, Drama, Holiday

    David Hemingson

    MiraMax, Gran Via

    Focus Features

#Paul #Giamatti #Ballyhoo #Reuniting #Alexander #Payne

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