Back in 2004, director Alexander Payne and actor Paul Giamatti saw success with novel adaptation Sideways, which won Payne an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay alongside co-writer Jim Taylor and made Giamatti and enemy of merlot drinkers for life. Now Payne and Giamatti are back together for a new film called The Holdovers.

According to Deadline, Giamatti plays Paul, a universally disliked teacher at the prep school Deerfield Academy. His non-fans include his students, fellow faculty and headmaster who all find his pomposity and rigidity exasperating. With no family and nowhere to go over Christmas holiday in 1970, he remains at school to supervise students unable to journey home. After a few days, only one student holdover remains — a trouble-making 15-year-old named Angus, a good student undermined by bad behavior that always threatens to get him expelled. Joining Paul and Angus is Deerfield’s head cook Mary, an African American woman who caters to sons of privilege and whose own son was recently lost in Vietnam. These three very different shipwrecked people form an unlikely Christmas family, sharing comic misadventures during two very snowy weeks in New England, and realizing that none of them are beholden to their past. David Hemingson wrote the script, which Payne found in a different form and helped the writer develop into a film screenplay after watching a 1930s French film that gave him an extra idea.

“I came across a writing sample for a pilot set in a prep school by David Hemingson,” Payne tells the trade site. “I called him, told him the idea and he jumped at it. Ever since I worked with Paul in Sideways, I’ve wanted to work with him again, and this role is tailor made for him. I continue to think now as I did then… I hate to use the term the finest actor of his generation because there are so many wonderful actors. But when I worked with him on Sideways I was astounded by his range. As a director you want actors who can make even bad dialogue work, and he can do that. He can just do anything. I think it’s a matter of time before he gets his Oscar.”

Payne plans to start shooting early next year in New England.

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