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Interview: Talking Filmmaking and ‘The Holdovers’ with Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne has two Academy Awards on his mantle. Twice, he has won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (Sideways and The Descendants). So, this is a filmmaker who has made his career writing as much as directing. In fact, prior to The Holdovers, he’d only had won film in which he wasn’t also the screenwriter (Nebraska). That alone made me fascinated to talk to him about the movie. Well, that and how many of his works I’ve been quite taken by over the years. Recently, I hopped on Zoom with the auteur that no less than Bruce Dern calls one of the greats. Today, you can see our discussion.

In my review of The Holdovers out of the Telluride Film Festival (here), I had this to say about Payne’s latest work:

The Holdovers not only sees Payne working within some of his comfort zones, it also sees him fueled by the style of Hal Ashby. This is a lived in movie, one with personality to spare. Ostensibly a three hander, watching our trio come together is, by and large, an absolute pleasure.

Alexander Payne directs a screenplay by David Hemingson, though it doesn’t feel particularly far from what Payne traditionally pens. The Ashby feel is a slight change, but this is all recognizably Payne. The musical selections are all on point, the pacing is consistent (if a bit slack), and it builds to lovely ending. Plus, seeing Giamatti back with Payne (and vice versa) just feels right.

Below, you can see my chat with Payne. We navigated around an alarm system going off in his hotel to talk not just about The Holdovers, but his career to date. I was fascinated to hear about anything he had to say, but having thought about this film since Telluride, I was all ears. Luckily, it’s much more of a back and forth. Payne has some interesting things to say about the writing of this movie, so be sure to listen for that. The Holdovers begins its theatrical run this weekend, with many an award nomination sure to be in its future, so don’t miss it…

Focus Features

Here now is my interview with The Holdovers director Alexander Payne. Enjoy:

The Holdovers opens in select New York and Los Angeles theaters on Friday, before going into limited release on November 3rd, with a nationwide rollout on November 10th!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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