'The King of Staten Island' director Judd Apatow explains why he makes long comedy movies (exclusive)

Tom Beasley

Judd Apatow has said he makes longer comedy movies, like The King of Staten Island, because they are “character studies” that need time to explore their characters.

Many of Apatow’s comedy films exceed the two-hour mark, with his new outing running to 137 minutes.

The King of Staten Island follows 20-something stoner Scott — played by Saturday Night Live alum Pete Davidson in his first leading movie role — as he deals with his mother dating another firefighter, years after his father died during a rescue.

It’s a personal story for Davidson, whose own father passed away while working as a firefighter in New York City on 9/11.

“I think it's really about what kind of depth you want,” the 52-year-old director told Yahoo Movies UK.

He added: “There certainly are just funny movies that don't need much depth to tell their stories.

Pete Davidson and Judd Apatow on the set of The King of Staten Island. (© 2020 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.)

“I think a lot of these movies are character studies. I try to butcher them down to fit in a smaller box, but I feel like you lose a lot of what people like about the movies, which is really getting to know people and also having the scenes play out the way scenes play out.

“We're not trying to compress time and push it forward super fast.”

Read more: Steve Carell says studio almost shut down 40-Year-Old Virgin

Five of Apatow’s feature comedies as director have been longer than two hours, with only 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin falling short of that mark.

Apatow said: “Someone said to me once that, when you make a movie that's a little longer, you're saying that you think these characters deserve more time. I think that's true.

Marisa Tomei and Pete Davidson in 'The King of Staten Island'. (Credit: Mary Cybulski/Universal)

“Whenever a movie is really long, like when they make an Avengers movie that's three and a half hours long, I'm like: 'You've got to fly to get three hours around here? You don't fly, you don't get three hours?'“

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The King of Staten Island also stars Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow and Steve Buscemi — himself a former firefighter.

The film is Apatow’s first fiction feature as director since Trainwreck in 2015, though he remains a prolific producer on projects including the TV series Love and movies like The Big Sick and Popstar Never Stop Never Stopping.

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