If you missed The King of Staten Island when it first released on digital back in June, good news: The movie is now streaming on HBO Now and HBO Max, free to all HBO subscribers. For Pete Davidson fans, this dark comedy is a peak behind the curtain at one of Saturday Night Live‘s most intriguing comedian. Directed by Judd Apatow, and written by Apatow, Davidson, and Dave Sirus, The King of Staten Island tells the story of a 24-year-old high school drop-out named Scott Carlin, who is drifting through life. While Scott’s younger sister is heading off to college, Scott still lives with his mother and has no real ambitions, other than smoking weed with his friends and giving out terrible DIY tattoos.
The film is an intimate glimpse into Davidson’s psyche, but just how accurate is it? Read on to get the scoop on The King of Staten Island true story.
Is The King of Staten Island a true story?
Yes and no. Pete Davidson co-wrote The King of Staten Island as a semi-autobiographical film, and he has a lot in common with his 24-year-old character, Scott. Davidson, like Scott, is from Staten Island, and, also like Scott, Davidson’s father was a New York City firefight who died in service during the 9/11 attacks. Like Scott, Davidson has one younger sister (played by Maude Apatow in the film) and lives with his mother. And, like Scott, Davidson has Crohn’s disease and has said he has dealt with suicidal thoughts.
Davidson has been open about the fact that Scott’s grief over losing his father was his own way of processing his father’s death. “I have never really been able to get over my dad passing. Telling that story — filming it and digging deep and being in uncomfortable areas that I have avoided for so long, I think that not only helped the movie, but it helped me as a person,” he told The New York Times.
However, not everything that happens in the film is true. Davidson is not a high-school drop-out like Scott, though he did drop-out after one semester of college. And though Davidson does have a lot of tattoos in real life, he does not dream of becoming a tattoo artist like his counterpart. Instead, Davidson became interested in stand-up comedy as a teen, and, as you’re probably aware, landed a gig on Saturday Night Live at the age of 20. That’s a pretty big discrepancy between The King of Staten Island and real-life—Davidson, unlike Scott, is incredibly successful at what he does.
That said, Apatow, Sirus, and Davidson tried to ground the film in reality, even the fictional elements. “We spent a lot of time talking about all the history and the emotions,” Apatow said in that same Times interview. “When Pete wasn’t around, I would sit with our co-writer, Dave Sirus, who’s one of Pete’s best friends, and go, what was that moment like? In a situation like that, how might Pete react? Ricky Velez, another of Pete’s best friends, he plays one of his buddies, and we brought him on to help us punch up the movie. That was all essential.”
Also, as far as we know, Davidson never tattooed a little kid. Thank goodness!