Actor Dustin Tucker on the stage of the Good Theater, where he is currently performing “One Man Two Guvnors.” Tucker has roles in the films “American Fiction” and “The Holdovers,” both of which have received Oscar nominations. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Dustin Tucker simply wanted to work closer to home. He ended up with roles in two Oscar-nominated films.

For years, Tucker, who lives in Falmouth, performed in plays at theaters all over the country that took him away from home for weeks or months at a time. He decided several years ago that he wanted to spend more time with his young son, now 7. He knew from other actors that Boston had become a major film hub, for both TV shows and movies, so he decided to switch gears and start auditioning there more often.

Two of the Boston-based films he landed roles in were nominated for Oscars on Tuesday. In “The Holdovers,” starring Paul Giamatti, Tucker plays a teacher at an exclusive boys boarding school. In “American Fiction,” he plays an uptight neighbor of stars Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown. Both films were nominated for best picture, while Giamatti and Wright were both nominated for best actor. Brown was nominated for best supporting actor.

Tucker is only in one scene in each film, with a few lines of dialogue. But his scene in “American Fiction” – with Brown angrily chasing him off a beach – was used as the opening shot for the film’s trailer. And Tucker was lauded by “The Holdovers” director Alexander Payne for his “humor, affability and focus” on the set.

“It’s always been my dream, ever since I was a kid, to be on the silver screen. To actually be a part of movies like these is so surreal,” said Tucker, 44.

Paul Giamatti as a private school teacher in “The Holdovers.” Maine actor Dustin Tucker plays a fellow teacher. Photo by Seacia Pavao/Focus Features.

Tucker watched as the Oscar nominations were announced online Tuesday and quickly sent messages of congratulations to Payne and to Wright. He said he felt happy and proud for everyone who worked on those movies, though he wasn’t surprised by the nominations, given the critical acclaim and Oscar buzz both had garnered.


Besides appearing in potential Oscar-winning films, Tucker is also currently starring in the Good Theater production of the madcap stage comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors” at The Hill Arts in Portland. It runs through Feb. 11.

A native of Amarillo, Texas, Tucker lived in New York and worked on Broadway before moving to Portland in 2008. He’s developed a reputation for versatility while playing dozens of roles in local theater productions, including more than 20 at Portland Stage, and others around the country. He’s been in five productions of  Portland Stage’s “A Christmas Carol,” working his way up from smaller roles to Bob Cratchit. He also starred in a Portland Stage one-man show called “Fully Committed,” where he played some 40 characters.

Tucker hopes his Oscar-nominated credits and the connections he made on those films will help him get more substantial film roles. Before these two films, Tucker had appeared in only a handful of movies, including “Patriots Day” (2016), about the Boston Marathon bombing, “Chappaquiddick” (2017), “Spenser Confidential” (2020) and “The Unholy” (2021). He also had a role in the TV series “Dexter: New Blood.”

Warning: This trailer includes explicit language.

“The Holdovers” is set at a New England boarding school in the 1970s and focuses on an awkward and much disliked history teacher, played by Giamatti.


Tucker’s scene was filmed in March of 2022 at St. Mark’s, a prep school in Southborough, Massachusetts. He’s seen eating in the school’s cafeteria with another teacher. The topic of their conversation is Giamatti’s character, who has drawn the unenviable task of staying at the school over Christmas break with the few unfortunate students who cannot go home, for a variety of reasons. The film follows the drama and lighter moments of their forced in-school holiday.

Falmouth actor Dustin Tucker in the Oscar-nominated film “American Fiction.” Star Jeffrey Wright is in the background, to the right. Screenshot from trailer/Orion Releasing

Tucker spent three days on set and filmed two scenes, though one was cut. Even so, Payne said he was impressed with how much Tucker could convey in just a couple minutes. Payne said Tucker’s scene is important because it helps “orient the audience as to how he and the rest of the faculty view Mr. Giamatti’s character with derision.”

“I like Dustin’s easy humor and believability as an actor, and he has a look at once distinctive and ‘every man.’ In ‘The Holdovers,’ he has only a small part, but he was able to suggest a human being beyond the borders of his short scenes,” Payne said in an email.

Paul Giamatti, left, and Dustin Tucker, of Falmouth, on the set of “The Holdovers.” Photo courtesy of Dustin Tucker

Tucker was equally impressed with Payne, who despite being a two-time Oscar winner – for writing the screenplays for “Sideways” and “The Descendants” – was kind and generous with his time.

“There isn’t a kinder, less-Hollywood director than him. He’s just a normal guy,” Tucker said of Payne. “He gave me his phone number. Directors don’t do that.”

“American Fiction” is a biting satire with Wright as a Black author who, tired of middling success, writes a parody of what he thinks white audiences want from Black authors. To his horror, it’s a huge hit.


Tucker’s scene in “American Fiction” was filmed at Sand Hills Beach in Scituate, Massachusetts, in September of 2022, over two days. The scene opens with Wright pouring ashes from an urn into the ocean.

Tucker quickly establishes himself as a nosy neighbor, telling Wright and his brother (played by Brown) that they need a permit to dispose of human remains. Brown tells Tucker to be quiet – in more forceful and profane language – then threatens to eat his sweater vest before chasing him off the beach.

Tucker showed up for the beach scene knowing his lines, but not much about his character. During one take, Brown told Tucker to “(expletive) off, Philip.” Tucker, not knowing his character had a name, thought this might be some sort of coded phrase for disparaging people that he wasn’t familiar with.

“So I asked (Brown) and he said, ‘No, that’s your name, we’re neighbors,’ ” said Tucker.

Brown also asked Tucker if it was OK to touch him. Once he got approval, Brown proceeded to jump onto Tucker’s back while chasing him down the beach.

Jeffrey Wright stars in “American Fiction,” which features Maine actor Dustin Tucker as his neighbor. Photo by Claire Folger/Orion Releasing

The Oscars will be presented live March 10 on ABC. Tucker says though he doesn’t expect to be invited to the ceremony, he’ll enjoy watching the awards show on TV. In fact, he’ll enjoy every minute from now until then.


“I’m going to have a fun two months living the life of being in two Oscar-nominated movies,” said Tucker.


“American Fiction” (2023) as Phillip
“The Holdovers” (2023) as Mr. Rosenswieg
“The Unholy” (2021) as Dan Walsh
“Spenser Confidential” (2020) as Federal Agent Fingle
“Chappaquiddick” (2017) as senatorial aide
“Patriots Day” (2016) as Steve Woolfenden

“Dexter: New Blood” (2021-22) as Pastor Brian

Selected theater:
“One Man, Two Guvnors” at Good Theater in Portland (2024) as Francis Henshall
“A Christmas Carol” at Portland Stage (2023) as Bob Cratchit
“The Santaland Diaries” at Portland Stage (2010) as Crumpet
“Fully Committed” at Portland Stage (2008) as nearly 40 different characters
“The Rainmaker” on Broadway (1999-2000) as farmhand

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