The Oscar-winning film The Holdovers, which stars Paul Giamatti and is set at a New England boarding school in the 1970s, is brazenly similar to a screenplay that a former Pixar writer penned and shopped around Hollywood in recent years, that writer says.

His name is Simon Stephenson, and his credits include work on Pixar's Luca and Paddington 2. A former San Francisco resident, Stephenson now lives in LA, and he recently filed a formal complaint with the Writers Guild of America claiming multiple similarities between a script he wrote titled Frisco, and the screenplay for The Holdovers by David Hemingson.

As the Chronicle reports, Stephenson calls out multiple similarities, including the premise. The Holdovers is about a boarding school teacher who gets stuck watching over a 15-year-old during a Christmas holiday break, while Frisco is about a pediatrician who gets stuck watching over a 15-year-old.

Stephenson says the Holdovers was lifted "line by line" from his script, and "the evidence the holdovers screenplay has been plagiarised line-by-line from frisco is genuinely overwhelming — anybody who looks at even the briefest sample pretty much invariably uses the word 'brazen.'"

Stephenson's letter to the WGA further says "I can also show that the director of the offending film was sent and read my screenplay on two separate occasions prior to the offending film entering development. By ‘meaningful entirety’ I do mean literally everything — story, characters, structure, scenes, dialogue, the whole thing. Some of it is just insanely brazen: many of the most important scenes are effectively unaltered and even remain visibly identical in layout on the page."

Stephenson says that director Alexander Payne had access to his script twice, in 2013 and again in 2019, and ultimately passed on it to collaborate with Hemingson on The Holdovers.

Payne has said publicly that he lifted the premise of the film "from a 1935 French movie (‘Merlusse’) I’d seen at a film festival about a dozen years ago." That film, directed by Marcel Pagnol — the same director whose films inspired the name Chez Panisse and the name of Alice Waters' daughter Fanny — has pretty much the same premise as The Holdovers: A tough teacher is stuck at a boarding school looking after a group of students over a Christmas holiday and thereby comes to understand them better.

Reportedly, the WGA responded to Stephenson telling him he ought to take the matter to court, if he wishes. The union said it could not intervene due to the fact that Frisco had been written on spec.

In addition to winning Best Supporting Actress at last night's Oscars ceremony for Da'Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers has won multiple prizes this awards season. The film won Best Cinematography and Best Breakthrough Performance for young actor Dominic Sessa at the Independent Spirit Awards, and Randolph also won supporting actor prizes there and at this year's Golden Globes.

Top image: Judd Apatow, Da'Vine Joy Randolph and Paul Giamatti seen during Focus Features' "The Holdovers" Los Angeles special screening and Q&A at Linwood Dunn Theater at the Pickford Center for Motion Study on February 13, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)