Nestled between the rolling Staffordshire moorlands and the county’s famous pottery towns, the village of Caverswall is as pleasantly sleepy as it was when it merited a mention in the Domesday Book.
But its centuries-long peace was shattered last week when it found itself the focus of international attention – as the unlikely location for the latest Hollywood love story.
Spotted strolling through the village square was Bridgerton’s leading lady, Phoebe Dynevor, holding hands with her altogether more conspicuous companion – the 6ft 3in tattooed US comedian Pete Davidson.
Pete Davidson, pictured here with Ariana Grande has become an unlikely heart throb
Davidson, left, is pictured here attending the 2017 MTV Awards with Cazzie David, right
A relative unknown on these shores, and certainly to most of the 900 inhabitants of Caverswall, gangly Davidson, 27, is one of America’s biggest household names, who has spent seven years on TV sketch show Saturday Night Live. But he is perhaps equally famous for his high-profile relationships with a string of glamorous women, including pop star Ariana Grande, actress Kate Beckinsale and Cindy Crawford’s model daughter Kaia Gerber.
And now, it seems, the man who – albeit improbably – has been deemed ‘catnip’ to beautiful women appears to have struck up a new romance with porcelain-skinned English rose Phoebe, making them Hollywood’s hottest new couple.
To Tilly Wagg, the 14-year-old Ariana Grande fan who spotted them, there was no doubt they were romantically involved, as she saw them sharing a kiss and a hug near the village’s punishment stocks under a large tree.
It was Davidson, in a pink cardigan, ripped jeans and lime green trainers, who first caught the teenager’s attention. ‘He was quite tall and wearing a good outfit, which isn’t normal around here, and his face is very recognisable,’ she said.
‘They walked past our house and we saw them holding hands and hugging each other. It looked like they were in a relationship and seemed happy together.’
For American audiences, Davidson is known for his work on Saturday Night Live
Excited Tilly even managed to grab a selfie with the comedian. ‘I walked up to him and asked him if he was Pete Davidson and he said “no” in an English accent. Later, he said, “I’m just kidding” in an American accent. It was quite funny.’
One American newspaper dubbed Tilly ‘a young Lady Whistledown’, after the notorious gossip in Phoebe’s hit Netflix series, after her scoop was picked up by local news outlets and spread around the world.
And now all eyes are on the pairing between the daughter of actress Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Webster in Coronation Street, and Davidson, who has spoken openly about his battle with mental health issues, drug abuse and stints in rehab.
He reportedly met Phoebe, 25, in New York in February when she was filming the TV show Younger, produced by Darren Star, the man who turned Sex and the City into a global smash.
How they were introduced remains unclear, but her Bridgerton co-star and onscreen love interest Rege-Jean Page, who plays the Lothario Duke of Hastings, was a guest host on Saturday Night Live in February, and appeared in several skits alongside Davidson.
A source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Everyone was been speculating about Rege-Jean and Phoebe and desperately hoping their on-screen chemistry spilled over into real life, but the reality is she and Pete have been quietly seeing each other.
‘He’s already met her parents. The word is he’s been staying with Phoebe and her family at their home outside Manchester. They were in Caverswall because that’s where she’s filming a new drama for Sky.
‘Pete’s had a lot of issues in the past but he’s come to terms with them and is in a very good place.’
Those issues stem from unimaginable heartbreak. Davidson’s father was a New York fireman who died during the September 11, 2001 terror attack on the World Trade Center.
Davidson was just seven at the time and says the tragedy left him so traumatised he would pull out chunks of hair, which left him with bald patches.
‘It shattered my world and nearly broke me,’ he said.
Here Davidson is photographed in Venice, Italy in September 2019 with Margaret Qualley
He has struggled ever since then with depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder.
Davidson, who still lives at home in his mother’s basement on New York’s Staten Island, has spoken openly about how he turned to marijuana to ‘numb’ the pain, and to cope with the effects of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel condition. He later sought professional treatment for his mental illness, with medication and therapy.
Performing stand-up comedy, which he started at 16, was easy in comparison. He has described feeling fearless on stage ‘because the worst thing that could ever happen to me had already happened’.
‘There’s nothing I won’t joke about and I guess that’s because of what happened to me,’ he says. ‘Now it’s just like “who cares?” ’
And he uses his heartbreak in his comedy, sometimes to brutal effect. During one barbed dig at pop singer Justin Bieber, Davidson said: ‘I lost my dad on 9/11 and I always regretted growing up without a dad – until I met your dad, Justin. Now I’m glad my dad’s dead.’
He has covered his body with more than 40 tattoos, including his father’s badge number, 8418, and the names of his ex-girlfriends.
He even has the face of former First Lady Hillary Clinton inked onto his leg because he considers her ‘a badass’. This revelation caused Clinton to quip: ‘This makes it significantly less awkward that I’ve had a Pete Davidson tattoo for years.’
But behind the humour, Davidson has often struggled to cope. In 2018, his mental health plummeted to the extent that he posted a cry for help on social media. ‘I really don’t want to be on this earth any more,’ he wrote. ‘I’m doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don’t know how much longer I can last.’
Rehab has helped, as, perhaps, has addressing his demons in a critically-acclaimed semi-autobiographical film which he co-wrote last year with director Judd Apatow. The King of Staten Island, tells of a boy who loses his firefighter father, and who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, but is ‘saved’ by music.
The film depicts the lead character smoking marijuana before going on stage, something Davidson has admitted to. ‘I can perform when I’m not high but it wouldn’t be that much fun for me,’ he said.
He called the movie ‘cathartic’ saying: ‘I put it all out there. Now I feel I can move on.’
The troubled, slightly dishevelled comic might seem a strange choice for a girl like Phoebe to take home to her mother. But one source said: ‘Pete isn’t your standard good-looking guy but he’s also not what he may at first appear.
The comedian was photographed right, here with his girlfriend of November 2019, Kaia Gerber
‘He’s got this shambolic appearance and looks like a tattooed rocker, but underneath he’s a teddy bear. He’s one of the most genuine, down-to-earth guys out there.
‘He wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s very funny. I think that’s why he has such a great hit rate with women. Older women want to mother him and younger women want to sleep with him.’
Along with supermodels and actresses, Davidson has also been linked to the children of Hollywood’s finest. He dated Four Weddings star Andie MacDowell’s daughter Margaret Qualley, and comedian Larry David’s daughter Cazzie, who was so devastated by the end of their two-year relationship she devoted an entire chapter of her recent book to the break-up.
Cazzie described how she fell ‘screaming in agony’ into her father’s arms only for him to reply, deadpan: ‘Cazzie, come on! Your ancestors survived the Holocaust.’
His fling with Kate Beckinsale – 20 years his senior – began when they were spotted getting cosy at the Golden Globes in early 2019.
When asked about the age gap, he said: ‘No one asks that question of Leonardo DiCaprio’ – a reference to the young models the actor is regularly photographed with.
The relationship fizzled out after four months. He later admitted it was because he was ‘going into another rehab’ and ‘it just wasn’t the right time’.
None of this has seemingly held back his career. After dropping out of college and hitting the comedy clubs, he was signed up by Saturday Night Live at the age of 20 – the youngest ever cast member of a show that has helped launch the careers of Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Bill Murray and John Belushi over its 40-year run.
But it was only when he began dating Ariana Grande in May 2018 that he became a household name in the US. The pair became engaged after just a handful of dates. The comic proposed the moment they met: ‘The day I met her, I was like, “Hey, I’ll marry you tomorrow.” ’
Grande even wrote a song entitled Pete Davidson for her 2018 album Sweetener and also referred to him in another hit Thank U, Next after they broke up after just five months. The lyrics include the line: ‘Even almost got married/And for Pete I’m so thankful.’
The relationship brought him both fame and dubious notoriety.
But his effect on women can have a down side. He was recently forced to take out a restraining order when one crazed fan broke into his Staten Island home and released a fake press release, claiming she and Davidson had married and set up a production company together.
Here he is attending an ice hockey match in Madison Square Garden, New York on March 3, 2019 with Kate Beckinsdale
Michelle Mootreddy, 24, had gained entry into the house through a side door and took a seat at the kitchen table before being found by a member of Davidson’s family. She had insisted she and the comedian were ‘childhood friends’.
Davidson has recently talked of being ready for a serious relationship. Could that relationship be with Phoebe?
How long the pair will remain in Staffordshire is not known. Phoebe is filming new Sky drama The Colour Room in the region, which is based on the life of local ceramic artist Clarice Cliff.
Whether Davidson is in the UK for business or purely for pleasure is unclear.
Phoebe is reported to have been in two previous long-term relationships – neither of them as high profile as Davidson. She dated recruitment executive Simon Merrill for a year in 2013 and the pair travelled around South East Asia.
Now Davidson has been linked with Phoebe Dynevor, pictured here at the V&A in June 2018
In 2017 she was said to be dating fellow British actor Sean Teale, who starred in Skins and Fox sci-fi drama The Gifted.
A source claimed Davidson was merely a hopeless romantic.
‘He loves women,’ the source added. ‘He grew up with just his mum and his sister and he adores both.
‘In relationships he’s a guy who falls hard and falls fast. He is someone who would love to settle down and have a family. What you see on the surface isn’t what you get with Pete.’
Davidson has many jokes, but one of his favourites is to tell reporters how he still lives at home with his mother. What he doesn’t tell them, though, is that he bought that home for her.
And perhaps that’s Davidson’s real attraction – underneath it all, he’s all heart.