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Paul Giamatti needs you to know his new film The Holdovers is better than Sideways-Tori Brazier-Entertainment – Metro

Awards season favourites Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph discuss The Holdovers with

Paul Giamatti needs you to know his new film The Holdovers is better than Sideways-Tori Brazier-Entertainment – Metro

The gifted Paul Giamatti has been reunited with Sideways director Alexander Payne for The Holdovers (Picture: Seacia Pavao/Focus Features)

Paul Giamatti’s Sideways has for years been regarded as a cult hit, and now more so than ever thanks to TikTok and social media making a meme out of his eternally quotable ‘I am NOT drinking any f**king merlot’ moment.

Even if you haven’t seen the 2004 comedy-drama film about Giamatti’s depressed and unsuccessful teacher/writer on a wine-drinking road trip with his has-been actor friend (played by Thomas Haden Church), you’ll have heard of this legendary declaration, an integral part of early Noughties film history.

But Giamatti reckons his latest film, another collaboration with Sideways director Alexander Payne, could be held up as even more iconic, more quotable and perhaps more memeable than their first.

He believes The Holdovers will weave its way even more deeply into the public’s psyche with its ‘universally appealing’ approach – a bold statement, but we can’t say we disagree.

Once again, he plays a teacher in The Holdovers, but this time in a private boys’ school in New England in 1970, and one who is reluctantly placed in charge of looking after the students who have nowhere to go during the Christmas holidays.

‘I honestly think this movie is iconic overall,’ proclaims Giamatti’s co-star Da’Vine Joy Randolph to ‘And I’m not saying it to be funny. Like, for real, I think there’s a lot of one-liners – which I think is a precursor for it being a classic.’

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Her co-star agrees, adding: ‘I actually think… my prediction is even more so than Sideways.

After eliciting a ‘woah!’ from Randolph, he continues: ‘I do. I think it’s a more universally appealing thing, because I keep hearing that it’s kids and old people [going to see it].’

The screenplay written by David Hemingson – his first feature-length – certainly has shades of Payne in its snappy dialogue and brutal zingers.

For Sideways, everyone loves to quote Giamatti’s character Miles’ explosion of ‘I am NOT drinking any f***ing merlot!’ What do The Holdovers’ stars reckon this film’s equivalent is?

Sideways has become a cult favourite since its 2004 release (Picture: Fox Searchl/Rex/Shutterstock)

One of its most quotable moments involves Giamatti’s character Miles having a tantrum over merlot (Picture: Searchlight Pictures)

‘There are a lot of them. Unfortunately, it might be penis cancer,’ Giamatti reveals, referring to one especially delicious insult his grumpy classics teacher doles out to a colleague.

‘But I don’t know if that’s one that people will be saying to each other.’ (We absolutely think they will.)

Both Giamatti – a previous Emmy and Golden Globe winner who was Oscar nominated for 2005’s Cinderella Man – and Randolph – known for Eddie Murphy vehicle Dolemite Is My Name as well as The United States vs. Billie Holliday – have been in the eye of the storm this awards season.

They both picked up best actor and best supporting actress respectively at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards, and have just added Bafta nominations to their impressive collections, alongside co-star Dominic Sessa.

The Holdovers, written by David Hemingson, also cracks through the one-liners (Picture: BFA/Seacia Pavao/Focus Features)

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What’s it like dealing with the intense scrutiny – and schedule – that comes alongside the glitz and glamour though?

‘I’m about to cry,’ laughs Randolph, honestly.

‘She’s always on the verge of falling apart. She’s right on the edge. It’s a crazy circus,’ interjects Giamatti.

‘But I will say, if this man wasn’t doing it with me, you wouldn’t see me at no awards. I wouldn’t have made it. Truly.’

Giamatti agrees, appreciating that it’s been pleasant for them to hit the awards circuit alongside Payne and Sessa, who makes his film debut as student Angus Tully.

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‘It’s a nice group of people, that makes it much better. But yeah, it makes it much easier doing it with her.’

This year’s awards season seems turbo-charged in comparison to previous ones, what with its star-studded contenders, young breakout talent and the looming shadow of the summer’s mighty ‘Barbenheimer’ double bill.

Do they agree?

Giamatti has nabbed a Golden Globe alongside co-star Da’Vine Joy Randolph… (Picture: Getty)

And the pair have also both picked up Critics’ Choice Awards and Bafta nominations (Picture: Michael Tran/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Yeah, maybe! I don’t know. I mean, I’m not always that well aware [of things],’ admits Giamatti. ‘But it does seem like there’s a particular level of something, I don’t know if that was the strike or what it was, but yes, maybe it does feel a bit more… sparky.’

‘And there no throwaway pieces,’ adds Randolph. ‘Even Barbie, it has a deep message. It’s very grounded. And people really worked hard – I think it’s a very competitive year.’

Giamatti praises all the contenders as smart films, agreeing that it can be tough to see one picked out as the winner at this time of year.

‘They all have real merit. They’re all really interesting movies.’

In The Holdovers, Randolph is collaborating with Payne for the first time to play cafeteria manager Mary Lamb, whose son – and former pupil at the school – was recently killed fighting in Vietnam.

Randolph’s Mary Lamb works hard to bring a little humanity to the festive season at a boys’ school where pupils have been left to stay over Christmas (Picture: Seacia Pavao/Focus Features)

As irritable classics professor Paul Hunham, known to be ‘an a**hole’, Giamatti shines (Picture: Focus Features)

Mary provides the core of the film’s humanity as she brings together Giamatti’s misanthropic professor and Sessa’s angry teenager for the festive period.

Randolph reveals that it was Payne personally approaching her that got her onboard initially, even if she wasn’t aware of who he was until they started discussing his past work, which also includes The Descendants and About Schmidt.

‘The fact that that man reached out and knew of my work and thought I could potentially be good for it meant everything to me. And then in my second meeting, they said [Paul] was going to be involved. It was a wrap. Because for real, he says like, “I’ll do anything with Alexander Payne.” He’s my Alexander Payne.’

Giamatti is touched by his co-star’s praise, and she goes on to add: ‘I’ll do anything with him. He’s very talented – and he then makes you a better actor.

As Giamatti returns the favour, Randolph jokingly shuts him down, yelling: ‘Uh, do you see? I’m here, aren’t I? We’re getting awards, aren’t we? I didn’t get them before when I didn’t work with you! I’m getting them now!’

Director Payne wooed Randolph to be in the project personally (Picture: Seacia Pavao/Focus Features)

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Of their matched success so far, Giamatti agrees it’s been ‘nice and tidy’ but insists that Randolph has ‘elevated what I do for sure’, as well as praising Sessa as ‘great’ too.

The Holdovers’ school setting is something that really chimes with audiences, considering how many beloved films have used the same one – Dead Poets Society, School of Rock, The Breakfast Club – and Giamatti has a theory about its popularity.

‘I actually think it’s you guys, the English. I think it comes from this British tradition that people just love – that kind of cosy thing of a boys’ school. And they love it in America, that’s why they exist in America too. I mean, Harry Potter is that thing! There’s something about that setting that feels very nostalgic and like tradition.’

Randolph – whose parents were both educators back in Philadelphia where she grew up – also agrees.

‘But it was also the epitome of education, right? So even somebody who didn’t go, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, the back-to-school vibe.” And everybody went to school – well, hopefully they did!’

Their favourites in the genre?

The Holdovers is another strong school-based entry in the canon alongside School of Rock, one of Randolph’s favourites (Picture: Paramount/Everett/Rex/Shutterstock)

Giamatti sings the praises of 1999’s Election, another Alexander Payne film, starring Matthew Broderick an Reese Witherspoon (Picture: CBS via Getty Images)

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‘The one for me is actually another movie by Alexander Payne called Election, which is a great movie about high school as a metaphor for politics in America. It’s a great movie, but it’s a great movie about high school too,’ says Giamatti.

‘It nails so many things about American public schools in a great way.’

 ‘I love School of Rock. I know every line by heart. And then just to be dramatic, Coach Carter,’ shares Randolph.

The two then go off on a tangent naming other favourites – Dangerous Minds and Music of the Heart come up for Randolph, while she also loves Giamatti’s suggestion of Mr Holland’s Opus, starring Richard Dreyfuss, which he claims ‘you can’t resist’.

What is it that The Holdovers brings to this genre that sets it apart though, according to its stars?

Newcomer Dominic Sessa, 22, has also received a Bafta nomination for his debut film role, alongside his co-stars (Picture: Seacia Pavao/Focus Features)

‘More detail. It feels more authentic – not that those aren’t,’ suggests Randolph.

‘And the whole notion of the 70s thing, it makes it a different movie anyway, it makes it this kind of historical piece, but I think you’re right,’ responds Giamatti.

‘The depth of it, the detail, the scope of it, the emotional range of it.’

As he proclaimed, enough to maybe surpass Sideways as his most popular film – and perhaps have him and Randolph clearing a little more space on their awards shelf.

The Holdovers in in UK cinemas from Friday, January 19.

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