As Hollywood’s King of Comedy, Judd Apatow has the clout to make an offbeat entry like Friday’s “The King of Staten Island” starring Pete Davidson of “SNL.”
Unlike the producer-director-writer’s raucous, raunchy farces — ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin,’ ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘Trainwreck’ — ‘King’ is a portrait of a slacker.
“It is a character story and you don’t see movies like this anymore,” Apatow, 52, acknowledged, “but I think we’ll still want them.”
In “King,” Davidson’s Scott is 24, perpetually stoned and jobless, living with his widowed mother (Marisa Tomei) with vague ambitions to be a tattoo artist.
Once mom embarks on a new life, Scott’s forced from the couch and on an emotional journey.
“I had worked with Pete on ‘Trainwreck,’ ” Apatow said of Amy Schumer’s 2015 hit.
Hoping to continue their relationship, “I gave him one premise that wasn’t the best fit. We gravitated to this area,” a very personal story, fictionalized.
Davidson, who co-wrote the script with Apatow and Dave Sirus, was inspired by his own personal tragedy: His fireman father, Scott Davidson, died racing into a building on 9/11. Pete was 8.
In “King,” Scott’s fireman dad has also died on duty.
“I didn’t think it was going to get that personal when we first started,” Apatow explained. “We wanted to write about some of what he experienced and decided there was a way to make a movie that was a little like Pete — if Pete never found comedy.
“Pete started doing stand-up at open mic nights when he was 15. In reality, he’s a really driven, hard-working person. He’s not (as onscreen) a pothead sitting around doing nothing.
“The movie is what might have happened to Pete if he didn’t have a dream, didn’t work so hard and wound up on Staten Island living at home.”
Due to its stoner sensibility, Apatow made a decision. “I wasn’t supposed to direct but I felt I was the right person to do this.
“I was close to Pete and I knew we had to be funny and truthful in the right way. A lot of times when I hire directors, I feel the script is working,” he said. “But with this I felt we would discover most of it in the process of making it.”
Only at the final credit does “King” reveal its real-life origins in a dedication to Pete’s dad with a photo of the two.
“It was important to show Pete and his father when credits are rolling to remind you it is a tribute.”