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Alexander Payne says he’s hoping to make an ‘Election’ sequel

Exclusive: Alexander Payne tells Rolling Stone UK about 'The Holdovers' and plans for an 'Election' sequel...

By Nick Reilly

Alexander Payne attends "The Holdovers" BFI Screening and Q&A at BFI Southbank on January 16, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

As The Holdovers hits UK cinemas tomorrow, director Alexander Payne has discussed the creation of his awards-tipped movie, as well as potential plans for a sequel to Election – his razor sharp high school satire.

Payne’s latest film sees Paul Giamatti in the form of his life as Professor Paul Hunham, a teacher at a New England boarding school who is to chaperone a handful of students who are staying at the school over Christmas break.

But the film soon becomes defined by the curmudgeonly teacher’s friendship with Angus Tully, a problematic student played by newcomer Dominic Sessa – who delivers one of the most remarkable big screen debuts in years.

“Dominic blew me away and that’s why I cast him,” explained Payne.

“He was a complete unknown, but he turns out to be an enormously talented actor. There’s talent everywhere and I think it’s just one of the main jobs of filmmakers to spot talent.”

In addition, Sessa had been a student at Deerfield Academy – the real life Massachusetts school that acts as the location of the fictional Barton Academy in the film.

“The casting director and I had already seen and rejected 800 submissions,” said Payne.

“Then came the part of our process where we reached out to the schools where I actually was going to be shooting and saw, you know, we called the drama teacher. Dominic was destined to do this.”

And while The Holdovers is set in a school, Payne could return to that setting for a proposed future project: a sequel to the acclaimed Election. The 1999 film tells the story of a particularly bitter student body election and provided one of Reese Witherspoon’s breakout roles.

“Tom Perrotta, who wrote the novel, has written a sequel called Tracy Flick Can’t Win, which came out a few years ago,” Payne explained.

“Of course it came to my co-writer Jim Taylor and me to consider adapting it and who would consider starring it. Reese [Witherspoon] would like to do it and Jim and I would like to do it. We just haven’t gotten to it yet. We have to get our heads together and get together in the same room.

We just haven’t done that yet, but we need to say all right, if we were to do this, what would it look like? If we can do something good then we’ll do it. And if we can’t, then we won’t.”