FFs star in film honoring SNL actor's fallen FDNY father
Several firefighters starring in Pete Davidson's film "The King of Staten Island" had worked with Davidson's father, Firefighter Scott Davidson, who was killed on 9/11
Carol Ann Benanti
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
NEW YORK — “The King of Staten Island,” the Staten Island-based feature film that puts “Saturday Night Live” star and Staten Island son Pete Davidson in his first starring role, is all set to be released on-demand Friday, June 12.
The movie was in production for a number of months, shot around town at borough landmarks.
And, in addition to bringing stars like Judd Apatow -- who was a co-writer and director -- actress Marisa Tomei and comedian Bill Burr to Staten Island, the movie will also give some borough residents their own shot at show biz.
Davidson said he wanted to cast people in the film who are important to him in real life, and a variety of roles were filled by friends and family, including some Staten Islanders who appear on-screen for the first time.
Davidson wrote “The King of Staten Island” with Apatow and former “SNL” writer Dave Sirus, and it is loosely based on Davidson’s life.
The film follows Scott, a 20-something aspiring tattoo artist who is coming to terms with the loss of his firefighter father, who died 17 years earlier. In real life, Davidson’s dad — whose name was Scott — was an FDNY firefighter who died on 9/11.
“The movie is basically a tribute to first responders and I play the captain of the firehouse," said John Sorrentino, who worked with Davidson’s father in Brooklyn’s Ladder 118/Engine Company 205, and is among the Staten Islanders cast.
Sadly, eight firefighters died from that house on Sept. 11, 2001 and Davidson’s dad, Scott, was one of them.
“When Judd cast all the firemen he asked me who should play what. And I laid it all out for him. He told me I would play Capt. Palazzo. There are five real life New York City firefighters in the movie, and one of them is played by actor Steve Buscemi who was a a firefighter in real life before he began a career in TV and movies,” Sorrentino added.
Davidson’s actual grandfather, Stephen Davidson, was also cast to be his grandfather in the film.
And, several of Davidson’s friends -- though not Staten Island-connected -- show up in the movie.
His former roommate, Derek Gaines, was cast as Zoots, Scott’s friend; Machine Gun Kelly was cast as a tattoo shop owner; and Davidson’s best friend Ricky Velez was cast as Oscar.
THE HOLLYWOOD EXPERIENCE, ON STATEN ISLAND
“I’ve known Pete since he was born,” said Sorrentino. “At the beginning of last year Pete reached out to several firefighters and said he was making a movie with Judd Apatow and he wanted to meet some of his father’s friends. We met Pete and Judd, the producer Barry Mendel as well as the other writer, David Sirus, and we all went to breakfast in Brooklyn.”
The New Springville resident went on to explain afterwards he received phone calls and emails from Mendel saying Apatow asked if he would be a consultant in matters pertaining to the firehouse and he was subsequently hired.
“I even got to write a few scenes as a guideline. Judd wanted the fire department stuff to be as close to reality as possible. He wanted it to be legit and to not sound corny and silly. And a version of some of the stories I submitted made it into the movie, which was pretty cool,” Sorrentino said.
Sorrentino asked if he could audition to be one of the firefighters and it was favorably received by Apatow.
“I got a call back,” Sorrentino said and he headed to Manhattan to follow up.
"They hired me to play one of the firemen. Judd was great. He really let me take the reins as far as fire department related material. In the fire scene in the movie he let Terry Quinn and me coordinate. I told the actors what their positions were and told them where to position the fire truck.”
Ninety percent of the movie was shot on Staten Island. However, several scenes were shot in Brooklyn, and the fire scene shot up in Yonkers.
Sorrentino explained there’s a bar scene in the movie where firefighters were cast as extras, four or five who worked with Pete’s dad. “It was an amazing experience to play with actors Bill Burr, Dominick Lombardozzi and Steve Buscemi who all play firefighters,” Sorrentino continued.
HE EARNED IT
The film imagines how Pete’s life might have turned out had he not gotten into comedy, Sorrentino went on to explain.
“When people see this movie I believe they will see Pete in a different light and know where he’s coming from. He’s caring and kind like his mother, who’s a nurse. He’s very, very honest, speaks his mind and is fearless like his dad. He says what’s on his mind,” Sorrentino points out.
Pete was only 7 year-old and his sister was just 4 at the time of their dad’s passing. The siblings are extremely close with their mom, who is still a single parent and with whom they reside in Great Kills.
According to Sorrentino, Pete started stand up comedy at 16 years old and began going to comedy clubs and open mics before he got discovered. “'Saturday Night Live’ was big for him. He deserves it and it wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter. No one opened doors for him," he said.
Because we are still adhering to restrictions related to the coronavirus, “The King of Staten Island” is skipping its theatrical run and can’t be viewed theaters around the country. And there will be no red carpet movies premieres nor cast parties.
HOW TO WATCH ‘THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND’
The film is headed straight to video on-demand services, Friday, June 12.
For further updates, visit thekingofstatenisland.com.
©2020 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.