Da’Vine Joy Randolph & Paul Giamatti Forged A Dynamic Dramatic Shorthand For Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’ – Contenders Film: The Nominees | Deadline

Da’Vine Joy Randolph & Paul Giamatti Forged A Dynamic Dramatic Shorthand For Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’ – Contenders Film: The Nominees© Deadline

“It genuinely feels like things are happening in real time.”

That’s Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s take on how her wise-beyond-years private school cafeteria lady Mary was able to forge a solid chemistry with Paul Giamatti’s curmudgeon ancient civilizations instructor Paul Hunham in Focus Features’ The Holdovers.

“You’re genuinely seeing their relationship authentically develop,” says Randolph. “I’ve never seen that in a movie like that before.”

Pin it to rehearsals led by director Alexander Payne that got the thespians “a deep performance,” she added during Deadline’s Contenders Film: The Nominees session that also included Giamatti, director Alexander Payne, screenwriter David Hemingson and producer Mark Johnson.

Randolph detailed the scene where Giamatti’s Paul meets up with Mary to watch an episode of The Newlywed Game; the two are stranded over the Christmas break as the only adults in charge at a Massachusetts private school of a band of misfit students who’ve been left behind by their parents. The scene was a nice mirror: Here are two opposites in Mary and Paul, getting to know each other on a deeper level as married couples are trying to maneuver their blind spots.

Talking about her character Randolph says, “Though she was highly skeptical, she felt … if there’s any form of a connection, this guy will be the one.”

Adds Randolph, “She creates space for him,” about her character opening up to the stodgy history teacher.

“He recognizes there’s another marginal person there,” explains Giamatti. “I think he’s the only faculty member who knows her name.”

Hemingson says he sparked to the idea for the script based on his time at a New England prep school in Hartford, CT. “It’s a memory play in many respects,” he says, drawing on his experiences of visiting friends at rival boarding schools like Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts during his cross-country running days.

In regards to why it took so long for Payne and Giamatti to reunite after their Oscar-winning drama Sideways, Payne admits, “My fault, I’m slow with scripts and didn’t have as many times at bat to offer Paul, but I think about Paul for everything.” (You’ll remember that the Academy overlooked Giamatti for a Best Actor nomination on that pic.)

Adds Payne, who won the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for that film, “It ain’t going to be another 20 years.”

The Holdovers is nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, Film Editing and Original Screenplay, as well as Giamatti as Best Actor and Randolph for Supporting Actress.

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