'The King of Staten Island' sees 'SNL' star Pete Davidson imagine what his life might have been life had he not gone into comedy. In the feature film, he plays layabout stoner Scott living with mom Margie (Marisa Tomei). Scott spends his days hanging with friends, occasionally sleeping with mate Kelsey (Bel Powley) and getting high. Even his sister Claire (Maude Apatow) has moved on to university. Scott is about to get a kick up the arse though as his mum starts dating Ray (Bill Burr). He eventually introduces Scott to his fellow firefighters, including Papa (Steve Buscemi) as the young man's life comes to a crossroads.
As with other works by Apatow's, 'The King of Staten Island' has some very funny moments as well as tenderness and surprises.
We chatted to both Apatow and star Pete Davidson about the movie.
Apatow had turned largely to TV writing and documentary making of late. He said that 'The King of Staten Island' brought him back to feature films.
"I think that I'm attracted to these stories about how people get through difficult parts of their lives, how they deal with trauma," he said. "And in my feature film directing I hadn't found something that was covering the same terrain that was interesting me so much with documentaries, until I met Pete. And then I thought 'Oh, this is the type of story I've been waiting for.'
"I definitely waited until it was something very special and I thought that's what this would be."
As for how close the film comes to his actual life, Davidson commented: "I think all the issues that Scott had to deal with in the film are very similar to the ones I had to deal with in real life. And I just always wanted to share that because I think a lot of people may feel the way I feel and might not know how to deal with it.
"I just wanted to let people know that they aren't alone and that there are struggles out there and it's OK to struggle."
Steve Buscemi was actually a firefighter before becoming an actor so the film marked a homecoming for him.
The 'Reservoir Dogs' alum said of working with the cast: "I really love ensemble films. I love eclectic casts, you get to mix it up with some really good people. And I think Judd is a master at allowing an atmosphere for all the actors to chime. You know, once people feel like they're really contributing, you're going to get their best work."
He added "it was a privilege to be a part of this story" and hoped audiences would take away from it: "if you're having troubles, issues, there's always help out there. If you put your heart out there, you will get it back in return."
We also spoke to actresses Bel Powley and Maude Apatow (daughter of Judd Apatow). They spoke about the improv process in the movie.
Powley explained: "Most of my scenes were pretty heavily improvised, which was definitely quite scary because I'd never worked in that way before, and obviously you're like improvising comedy against a comedian, who has a backlogue of jokes. It was an intense but also incredibly free way of working. I think you discover more about your character this way than you would if you were heavily scripted. It was fun."
Maude added: "We'll start with what's on the page. And then if it doesn't feel right, we have total freedom to take it in another direction. What Bel was saying about keeping up with the comedians, can be rough. They're so funny, they'll catch you off guard and sometimes it's hard to get your footing. But it's really important to stay super present, and that's challenging. But that's the goal, at least for me as an actor, is to be present, stay present. So this makes it a lot easier to be that way when you know you can be thrown off at any moment."
Last but certainly not least, Marisa Tomei noted working with Judd was a big attraction to 'The King of Staten Island' for her. She said: "I wanted to be around him and his mind and to see how he was going to create."
She spoke about her love of working in New York, where she herself is from and where some of her most renowned characters such as May Parker in the MCU and Mona Lisa Vito in 'My Cousin Vinny', hail from.
"It's really great to work in New York because I get to see a lot of my family more during that time," she said. "And yes, there's something that will always feel so comfortable to me being there. And it's exciting. There's always a lot of crowds that have to be controlled. And there's this wild energy that then has to become very still and contained in order to get the scene, generally. It's just such a vibrant, alive city."