Esquire (USA) : 2020-06-01



a marathon quarantine screening of the majority of her films, was: Is she as nurturing as the characters she plays? Mona Lisa Vito, Cassidy in The Wrestler, Aunt May in Spider-Man: Homecoming—these are all the kinds of people you’d want in your life as lifters of broken spirits, wells of empathy. Without even asking it, I had my answer. The King of Staten Island, which Universal has decided to release to video on demand on June 12, is classic Apatow—a comedy with fun, raucous improv energy layered with heart. It is very much about what can happen to the stability of individual­s within a family after a tragedy of incredible magnitude. It’s about wanting to move on but not being able to when a loved one is taken away from you, and your friends, the government, and the universe can’t offer any real closure. Pete’s character, Scott, still lives with his mom and can’t seem to realize any of his dreams. Margie hasn’t been able to have a romantic relationsh­ip for more than a decade. But change happens. Scott gets kicked out of the house; his mom starts dating; hilarity (and much personal growth!) ensues. That Tomei would choose to be in a comedy that’s filled with smart tenderness is no surprise. She is a kind of avatar of integrity. She could have easily taken a more superficia­l route in a career that spans more than sixty films, but she didn’t. Her acting has remained thoroughly superb, and her taste in movies has skewed buoyantly indie, no matter the budget—that even includes Spider-Man: Homecoming. “I’m a ham if nothing else,” she says of her taste in roles. “We want things to be entertaini­ng. But is it something that’s worth talking about? Is there some kind of dialogue around it that’s worth thinking about? That’s what’s kept me there.” She even has a pretty existentia­l take on how The King of Staten Island may be read in the context of our current crisis. “I feel like what Pete goes through as a character and as a person in real life The big question I had going into this interview with Tomei, after QUEEN OF HEARTS Over a three-decade career, Marisa Tomei has continuall­y transforme­d the role of the carefree yet complex sidekick. This summer she does it again in Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island. by KEVIN SINTUMUANG ¶ the quintessen­tial Actors from NYC™ who are, for better or worse, inseparabl­e from the charming grit of the town that helped shape them: Jennifer Lopez, Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci—with whom she starred in the 1992 comedy classic winning herself an Oscar for her portrayal of Mona Lisa Vito. She’s at home in L. A. but just wrapped up starring in Tennessee Williams’s on Broadway before the pandemic struck. And she can’t stop thinking about the people at the epicenter of the coronaviru­s outbreak in the U. S. She is thinking of her parents, who live in downtown Manhattan. Her aunts and uncles and cousins. She’s even thinking of me. “I’m glad you’re safe. It must be hard to write now,” she says when I tell her I’m sheltering in place with my wife and daughters, not too far from the Brooklyn neighborho­od where she grew up. But mostly, in this conversati­on we’re having over Zoom about her role in the film she is thinking of Amy Davidson, a nurse and the mother of Pete Davidson. Tomei plays Margie, a character based on Amy, in the new Judd Apatow comedy about a mom and her man-boy son (it’s loosely based on Pete’s pre-SNL years) who are still trying to move forward, years after their husband/father died fighting a fire. “I think about how much Amy gives and how my character gives in the movie. Pete’s dad was a firefighte­r on 9/11. And after that, the firefighte­rs were not treated well by the government’s administra­tion. I’m just noticing what’s happening in the world now, and hopefully these people that we know are essential aren’t going to be treated that way after this.” NEW YORK IS ON MARISA TOMEI’S MIND. YES, SHE IS ONE OF My Cousin Vinny, The Rose Tattoo The King of Staten Island, 16