This story contains mild spoilers for Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island. Only because it reveals the ending. It’s not a huge plot spoiler, but we discuss the film’s final scene, so be aware.
The ending of Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island also feels like a beginning. For the bulk of the film, Scott (Pete Davidson) wallowed in uncertainty and emotional instability. His grief over the death of his father, and his unwillingness to fully mature, prevented him from succeeding as a tattoo artist, or fully enjoying his romantic relationship with Kelsey (Bel Powley). By the end of the film, Scott has followed Kelsey into Manhattan so she can take an important test, and he turns to look up at a very important symbol.
Judd Apatow was a guest on the ReelBlend podcast, and when we discussed the ending of the movie with him, he admitted that he didn’t have the ending worked out until he saw Pete Davidson, in that moment, turn and face the site that used to be the World Trade Center. Now, Scott was looking at the Freedom Tower, which is a symbol of the loss the character felt in the movie. And while Apatow says he filmed a number of different endings, it was his daughter Iris who kept insisting that audiences would only care about the Scott-Kelsey relationship. He said:
With the one that we used, I knew I wanted to do that scene. I didn’t know if it would be the last scene. My daughter who was 16 at the time, Iris, I kept asking her to read drafts as a way to teach her about film. I had her read all of the drafts, and I'd try to talk to her about the work I was doing. She kept saying, ‘Dad, no one cares about anything but the couple. They don’t care. All they care about is the relationship with Bel Pawley.’ She said that during the script. She was like, ‘You need a great end to the relationship.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I kind of think that people care about his relationship with his mom, and Bill Burr…’ And she’s like, ‘They don’t care! It’s all about the girl!’ [Laughs]
Iris Apatow wasn’t wrong. After all of the obstacles that Pete Davidson’s character faces (and overcomes) during The King of Staten Island, we emotionally invest in the on-again/off-again romance Scott has with Kelsey. And as Judd Apatow scouted out locations to stage this emotional scene for those two characters, he came to realize that the spot he chose falls in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, and that was an emotional landing for Scott.
Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island landed on digital platforms on Tuesday, August 11, and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on August 25.