The next film from director Alexander Payne called “The Holdovers” and starring Paul Giamatti was acquired in a worldwide deal by Focus Features after the film screened in secret at the Toronto International Film Festival, going in the range of $30 million, an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.
The film, which reunites the team from Payne’s “Sideways,” screened on Sunday at TIFF but not as part of a public screening or official selection. All major streamers and studios attended the “Holdovers” screening. The deal is one of the largest of its kind out of Toronto, no less for a film not even playing as part of the festival. The deal also comes as the TIFF market has been slow — or nearly non-existent — on other major acquisitions through the first four days of the festival.
“The Holdovers” is a comedy set in 1970 and follows Giamatti as a curmudgeonly, universally disliked teacher who finds himself stuck at the Deerfield Academy over the course of the holidays along with a trouble-making student and the school’s African American cook, who recently lost her son in Vietnam.
Bill Block’s Miramax produced and financed the film, and CAA Media Finance brokered the deal.
David Hemingson (“Whiskey Cavalier”) wrote the screenplay for “The Holdovers.” Mark Johnson is the producer.
Payne’s last film was 2017’s “Downsizing” with Matt Damon. He won an Oscar for Best Screenplay along with Jim Taylor for “Sideways” with Giamatti, and the film was nominated for Best Picture.