the king of staten island

Apatow and Davidson Find Humor and Heart in ‘The King of Staten Island'

Director Judd Apatow shines a light on grief and first responders in his new film "The King of Staten Island."

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 “The King of Staten Island” is a semi-autobiographical look at comedian Pete Davidson’s life story. The “SNL” cast member lost his father, a firefighter, on 9/11. He has been pretty open about the damage that loss did emotionally, and psychologically ever since.

He was in the spotlight two summers ago for a brief but exciting romance with pop star Ariana Grande. But many people might know him as the quirky, young slacker who occasionally appears on “Saturday Night Live” with some plumb self-deprecating humor. 

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Comedian Pete Davidson.

Davidson connected with director Judd Apatow (“40 Year Old Virgin”) and former “SNL” writer Dave Sirus to write “The King of Staten Island.” The film follows Scott, a slacker kid from Staten Island who has a hard time growing up and getting his life together 17 years after his father's death. He dropped out of high school and now spends his days hanging with his friends and dreaming about becoming a tattoo artist. His sister Claire, played by Apatow’s daughter Maude Apatow (“Hollywood”) goes off to college. And his friends with benefits buddy Kelsey (Bel Powley) starts wanting something more serious out of their relationship which, as you can guess, he is not ready to commit to.

The story finds momentum when Scott’s mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) starts dating a firefighter named Ray (Bill Burr). Scott is then forced to confront his feelings about his mom moving on, and his own arrested development after his father’s death. Apatow says in addition to being a story about arrested development, the film centers around first responders and was an important story for them to tell.

“Our movie is about first responders, and firemen and nurses, and heroes. And sudden trauma. And grief and how people process it,” Apatow explains.

It’s because of the subject matter Apatow and Universal Studios decided to release the film on-demand now, rather than push the release to next year when, ideally, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t keeping theaters closed. 

Universal Pictures
Pete Davidson in "The King of Staten Island" Credit: Universal Pictures

“We talked about it and we thought we could hold on to it for a year,” Apatow says. “But it felt better to put it out now because everybody’s cooped up and stressed out.”

The movie oscillates between raw moments of anxiety and depression, and subtle comedy that feels like the perfect blend between Apatow and Davidson’s comedy. Bill Burr gives a truly wonderful performance as a gruff firefighter with a heart of gold. And you get the sense that Pete Davidson is playing a version of himself, which he says in part, he is.

“What really made it easy was how sensitive to me Judd and Dave (Sirus) who co-wrote the film with us was,” Davidson says. “I wouldn’t have been able to go to that place or feel comfortable doing that if we didn’t have such a family like vibe.”

You can watch the rest of this story unfold from your living room when it streams on demand June 12. “The King of Staten Island” stars Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Maude Apatow, Bel Powley, Steve Buscemi and was directed by Judd Apatow. Go to thekingofstatenisland.com for more details.

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