The King Of Staten Island – Trailer Breakdown With Director Judd Apatow

The King Of Staten Island

by John Nugent |
Updated on

Five years after Trainwreck, US comedy godfather Judd Apatow is back with his sixth film, The King Of Staten Island. Headed for an unexpected digital release due to coronavirus (“Obviously, comedies are built for a communal experience, but that's not an option right now,” Apatow says), the film is a star vehicle for rising comedian and Saturday Night Live player Pete Davidson, who co-wrote the film with Apatow and based it heavily on his experiences growing up in the New York borough, while living in the shadow of his father, a firefighter who died in the line of duty. Here, the filmmaker breaks down the trailer and explains just how semi-autobiographical he gets.

The Tat Among The Pigeons

The King Of Staten Island

The trailer opens with Pete Davidson’s character, Scott, revealing the tattoo on his arm, commemorating the date his father died. Like the real life Davidson, tattoos are everywhere in this film.

“Most of those tattoos are Pete's tattoos. There were a few we had to cover up for clearance issues, or for logic reasons. That tattoo with the date his dad died is not a real tattoo. But Pete has a tattoo of his dad's driver's license on his arm. Pete is a big fan of getting tattooed. One of the most difficult parts of making the movie was convincing Pete not to get more tattoos during the shoot, because then our continuity would go out the window. He always asked me to get tattoos. And I would say, ‘I'm way too hairy’. They would just instantly be covered in hair. And I don't want to shave every day so people can see my tattoos. So I resisted.”

The Parent Trap

The King Of Staten Island

Marisa Tomei plays Scott’s mum, Margie, also still dealing with the grief of the father of the house, and as a result allowing Scott to live in his childhood home, aged 24. But when she begins to date again, she has other ideas.

“Marisa Tomei is somebody that I've always been a fan of. She did us a favour with a cameo in Trainwreck. We definitely felt like she raised everybody's game. She's one of those people that when she's around, everybody knows they need to try to rise to her level. She found a way to bring Pete's mom to life, because it is a complicated character. She's so worried about Pete's character that she hasn't dated in 17 years. And a lot of the movie is about her attempting to put herself first and how difficult that is. The first time we projected the movie, I was just so blown away by all the micro-choices she made that I couldn't see them on the monitor in the editing room. Just what was happening in her eyes.”

Amateur Hour

The King Of Staten Island

As well as being an enthusiastic recipient of tattoos, Scott is also an amateur tattoo artist, and uses his group of pals as guinea pigs — albeit with mixed results.

“One of the hardest parts of making the movie for me was figuring out the style of [Scott’s] tattooing. How good is it? How bad is it? What's the sense of humour of it? We spent months looking at tattoos, looking at different tattoo artists, trying to figure out what that level would be. One of our co-writers, Dave Sirus, happens to be amazing at drawing, so he drew the cat on Moises' belly, where his belly button is the butthole of the cat. I forget who drew the bad Obama. I wish I had all the names of the tattoo artists. The main person who helped us was a man named London Reese, who's one of the great tattoo artists in the world. The hardest part of the thing was teaching him how to make bad tattoos.”

Ray Of Light

The King Of Staten Island

When Margie starts dating, it causes frictions in the Staten Island house — not least because Margie's new man, Ray (played by Boston-born comedian Bill Burr) is also a fireman.

“Bill is obviously one of our great comedians. But he's also a very, very strong actor. He hasn't been in a movie with a part of this size or a part that was tailored for his talents. So what was fun was to have the ability to use every side of Bill, also knowing that other people hadn't been given that opportunity. He just had so much to offer. His gas tank was completely filled. We knew he'd be funny as a know-it-all obnoxious firefighter, but he also brought this sweetness and sensitivity to the character. He's so funny when he's trying to figure out how to get Pete to like him.Because in a lot of ways the movie is a love story between Pete and Bill. It is about a young guy trying to figure out if he can accept a new father figure into his life.”

Putting On The Jacket

The King Of Staten Island

Ray forces Scott to confront his relationship with the fire service; the film used real firefighters and shot in a real firehouse.

“We decided to have half of the actors in the firehouse be real firemen and fire women. And that helps a lot too. We were surrounded by people who knew how to make everything accurate, not just in the technical aspect, but also in what a conversation sounds like when everyone's eating breakfast. And that helped a ton. When we shot all the scenes at the Firehouse, we're there pretending to be a firehouse, and five feet away are all real people who work there. And every once in a while, the bell would go off and they'd run out to put out a fire. And it was scary! We all got nervous for them. We hadn't been around that and you felt the sacrifice.”

All About Steve

The King Of Staten Island

Steve Buscemi plays Papa, a colleague of Ray’s at the firehouse, who provides Scott with some tough love. As Apatow notes, Buscemi has firefighting history in his blood.

“Steve was a fireman for four years before his acting career took off. And he stayed very close to the community. He works with a lot of charities. And after 9/11, he went down to Ground Zero and was there for a long time helping to clean up. He's a very special person and one of the great actors of all time. For us, he was the soul of the movie. And when he's working, it's, it appears so effortless. You're not even sure what he's doing or how it happens and then you watch it back, and it's all so beautiful and funny and present. Every moment he was there, we were just elbowing each other. We still can't believe we got him to do this.”

Marooned On An Island

The King Of Staten Island

Key to the whole film is its location, the New York borough of Staten Island, where Davidson grew up, and where the working-class characters find themselves in a state of arrested development.

“We shot almost the entire movie on Staten Island. We never tried to fake it somewhere else. And I do think that helped with the spirit of the movie. It's a unique place because it's very blue collar. A lot of the people who live there don't go to Manhattan that often. There's some people that are commuting — and then there's a lot of people who just stay on Staten Island. Pete said, as a kid who lived there, it was shocking how rarely they would venture off of Staten Island. Thee thing about that island is there really isn't any attraction to make anyone visit. There's no big tourist attraction there. So there are people who live in Manhattan and Queens and the Bronx who have never been there. A lot of people they only visit if their friends or relatives live there. As a result, it has its own very specific, isolated culture.”

The King Of Staten Island comes to VOD on 12 June.

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