Steve Buscemi says it was 'meaningful' to play fireman in 'The King of Staten Island' (exclusive)

Tom Beasley

Steve Buscemi says it was “meaningful” for him to play a firefighter on screen for the first time in The King of Staten Island.

The 62-year-old star was a firefighter in New York City in the 1980s and returned to work several gruelling shifts in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

In The King of Staten Island, he plays seasoned fireman Papa, who serves as a father figure to an entire firehouse full of frontline workers and proves a mentor to Pete Davidson’s slacker protagonist Scott as he mulls whether to walk in his late father’s footsteps.

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The story was personal for Davidson as well as Buscemi, with the 26-year-old comedian having lost his firefighter father on 9/11.

“For me, it was so meaningful to be able to play a firefighter for the first time in my acting career,” Buscemi told Yahoo Movies UK.

Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) and Papa (Steve Buscemi) in 'The King of Staten Island', directed by Judd Apatow. (Credit: Mary Cybulski/Universal)

“In a film that is about Pete's story and to be able to do those scenes with Pete knowing how personal it was to him, it was a real privilege.”

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Buscemi said he felt “very comfortable” to be back in a firehouse after so many years away from the job.

He added: “[Pete] had a lot on his plate doing this film and I think between us, we both knew each other's stories and we sort of saved it and put it into the film.

“Rather than talk about it off-camera, we allowed ourselves to go there within our characters.”

Buscemi also said it helped that many of the background artists in the firefighting scenes were firefighters themselves and so had far more experience of the modern frontline than he did.

Pete Davidson as Scott Carlin in 'The King of Staten Island', directed by Judd Apatow. (Credit: Mary Cybulski/Universal)

The King of Staten Island also stars Bill Burr, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow and Bel Powley.

The film marks Davidson’s first lead role in a major film, with the Saturday Night Live cast member also co-writing alongside director Judd Apatow and Dave Sirus.

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It had initially been planned for a cinema release before the coronavirus pandemic.

The King of Staten Island is available to rent at home from 12 June.