New England, Old Friends: Interview with 80 FOR BRADY Director Kyle Marvin

Rita Moreno plays Maura, Jane Fonda plays Trish, Lily Tomlin plays Lou and Sally Field plays Betty in '80 For Brady.' Image courtesy: Paramount.

Most football fans rank Tom Brady as the GOAT, or the “greatest of all time.” The four stars of the upcoming film 80 for Brady may contend for a similar title themselves amongst Hollywood actresses.

Three of the legendary leads have won Academy Awards—Rita Moreno for 1961’s West Side Story, Sally Field for 1979’s Norma Rae and again for 1984’s Places in the Heart, Jane Fonda for 1971’s Klute and again for 1978’s Coming Home—while Lily Tomlin was nominated for 1975’s Nashville.

In Paramount’s comedy, releasing exclusively in cinemas on February 3, four friends meet up every week to watch Tom Brady’s New England Patriots on television, but hijinks ensue when they travel to Houston to attend the team’s 2017 Super Bowl in person. 

The film is loosely based on a true story, with an emphasis on the word “loosely.” In real life, while five senior citizen best friends (not four) did regularly meet up to watch Tom Brady and the Patriots, they didn’t actually attend the 2017 Super Bowl—never mind accidentally getting high on drugs at a party or competing in a spicy wing eating contest.

Actor Kyle Marvin, most recently seen in 2022’s Apple TV+ miniseries WeCrashed and the Covid-era release The Climb, here makes his feature film directorial debut. He spoke to Boxoffice PRO about having a new child and a new film in the same month, his memories of watching the 2017 Super Bowl live, and how working on the movie changed his own NFL allegiances.

Not only does your film come out on February 3, but I saw on your Instagram that you’re having a baby in January. What has this month been like for you?

I am having a baby literally at any moment. I’m checking in with my wife on my phone at all times. I’m delivering two productions! It’s wild.

More than 100 million Americans watched the 2017 Super Bowl, which was only six years ago. Given the film’s target demographic, did you find during test screenings that many older women didn’t actually watch the game at the time, and so were legitimately surprised at the game’s outcome ?

When you watch the movie, even if you know the result, you kind of forget because the journey to get there is so thrilling. So you kind of organically forget, somehow.

Some guys in the audience, and even some women in the audience, knew every single play on both sides. They would tell us, “You missed this one moment.” We can’t include every play in this movie, otherwise it would be the whole movie! Other people went into this movie saying, “I don’t even care about football, but now I’m completely enamored with it.”

Which NFL team do you root for now? And is that different from the team you rooted for before working on this movie?

I’m from Oregon. I’m a Trailblazers fan, so for basketball I’m committed. But the only football we have is college, so I’ve always been a little bit neutral. But I definitely leaned into the Bucs this year. [Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, leading the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2021.]

It’s funny. My wife casually watches football. After this movie, she was invested in the Bucs this year, too. Every game, we’d sit together, stress eating. I was like, “You’re pregnant, you’ve got to calm down.” But then at times I would freak out and she would have to calm me down. It was such a wonderful experience to be engaged with football in that way, with each other. You commit to the movie and you commit to the power, the joy, and the pain of football.

What was this past Monday night like for you? [At the time of the interview, the Dallas Cowboys had just eliminated Brady’s team from the NFL playoffs the prior Monday.]

It was a tough year to be a Bucs fan. I think it’s always hard when you have a team like that, with a lot of all-stars, to get that cohesion and teamwork. So it was a bit painful.

But the magic of football is that there’s always another season. There’s always that sense of rebuilding and going forward. And that’s part of the message of the movie, in a weird way, because the same is true of our women. There’s always a different season. Each season allows us to grow, learn, and carry on. That idea is part of the way the movie became really cohesive.

The real-life women live in Massachusetts, where the Patriots play, but I don’t believe the film explicitly mentioned where the characters live. Was that a conscious decision?

We do hint to the audience to where they are a little bit, with the geography and the exteriors. But we made a conscious decision to not make it front and center of this particular story, because it’s a little more universal than that. The Patriots have fans everywhere. Tom Brady also has fans everywhere around the nation. And he’s got enemies around the nation who still respect him, watch him play, and are impressed.

So it wasn’t a slight to Boston at all, to not make it a centerpiece. It was more the tapestry of the world in which this movie is told. It can be anyone, from any walk of life, from any team.

So you didn’t consider having the women speak in Boston accents?

A lot of my family is from Boston, and what movies portray as a Boston accent consistently does not sound like my wife’s entire family. They’ve lived and grown up there, including her mom. Diving into the nuances of Boston linguistics is crazy. If you listen to someone from Winthrop, someone from Southie, and someone from the suburbs, they’re all going to sound drastically different.

Do you expect this film to dramatically underperform at the box office in Atlanta?

[Laughs.] Listen, the Falcons played an incredible game. They deserve all the praise that they should get for that particular game. The odds of Tom and the Patriots pulling off those final few throws and catches were next to impossible. While it might be traumatizing in some ways, I hope that Atlanta embraces the film. We certainly show Atlanta’s great work in the movie as the game unfolds.

Do you remember watching Super Bowl LI in 2017?

I certainly do. I remember giving up on it! “Well, this thing’s over.” I stopped paying attention to it until way late in the third quarter, maybe even the fourth quarter. Then people said, “No, wait, they’re actually doing something here.” When you talk about this game with anyone, they left the house or they turned the TV off. There’s so many stories of just how incredible this comeback was.

A recurring joke features Sally Field as Betty repeatedly mentioning that she’s the only one of the four main characters who’s younger than 80. Was that in the screenplay? 

After Sally joined, we were sitting at a restaurant and she made that joke to me: “You know I’m not in my 80s, right?” Immediately, we went back and put it in the script. She really embraced it and leaned into the joke. She has such a tremendous sense of comedy and comedic timing. She did a great job with that joke. So we built the Rita Moreno joke in there too: “Neither am I.” Because she’s 91!

Speaking of Sally Field, her character has a scene where she enters a hot sauce eating contest. Were any of the actors in that scene eating real hot sauce?

That is a great question. [Laughs.] I will never tell you whether I hid jalapeño hot sauce for that one guy who had to rub his eyes. Whether his performance was authentic. Just know that it might have been.

It’s become such a part of the zeitgeist now. If you had made a hot sauce competition scene 10 years ago, people would have been like, “What is this?” But now, everybody knows exactly what it is.

The climactic moment of the film is the Patriots scoring the winning touchdown in overtime. Why did you pick the disco song “I’ll Be Holding On” by Al Downing to soundtrack that scene? Sure, it’s upbeat, but it’s not especially dramatic or triumphant.

That’s interesting. It’s a part of the movie where you want it to feel celebratory, but you don’t want a “We are the Champions”-type song. Because that’s not really the ethos of sports, nor the Super Bowl. You win the Super Bowl that season, then the next season you’ve got to prove yourself again.

Just look at the Los Angeles Rams. They won the Super Bowl last season, but this season they had a losing record.

Exactly. “I thought you guys were the best, but it all fell apart.” That’s the beauty of this particular thing. It’s something we wanted to keep in that moment. We didn’t want it to feel like it’s the top of the mountain, because the movie then moves on to the next season, both for the team and for the women. There are new things to talk about, new challenges, new problems. You have to face your bad decisions.

That sort of ethos, going out and losing, but getting back up, dusting yourself off, and going again? I think the movie engenders that across the board. The women have lived lives where they had to struggle, but they lifted themselves up and moved on. Tom Brady has had to face that every season, especially where he is at his life and career now.

Did the four women all get along on set as well as they seem to on-screen? Or were the other three insulting Lily Tomlin for being the only one without an Academy Award?

[Laughs.] Certainly no one would ever say that, because I think everyone thinks she deserves an Academy Award. As do I!

Lily and Jane, obviously, have a relationship. [They costarred in both 1980’s 9 to 5 and the recently-concluded Netflix series Grace and Frankie.] All these women have been in the industry so long [that], even though they haven’t spent every day of their lives together, they’ve known each other for such a long time. There just became this natural connection between everyone. The women would sit together off-set. It became a thing we pushed forward and promoted: hang out, talk, banter. I wanted that same sense of natural friendship to organically pass into the performance on-set. We just kept kindling the fire.

Do you have a favorite story from the set?

Editing, for me, is such a hard traumatic experience. I have a hard time cutting the beautiful days of shooting with those women.

I had a great time during the poker scene with Rita. [Moreno’s character accidentally enters a high-stakes gambling game, where her competition includes television’s Billy Porter, Retta from Parks and Recreation, and NFL star Marshawn Lynch.] That’s a scene where we really let them all riff and feed off of each other. Rita wasn’t just hanging, she was leading the charge. She was breaking other actors. People were laughing, over and over again, because she would just say the wildest things. Well-heeled actors, who know how to improv, could not keep up.

Did any of the improvised lines make it into the final cut?

The line where she says “Shove it, brisket.” That whole thing came out of an improv, though we later refined it. The long version of that scene is probably six minutes, and it’s entertaining all the way through. We had to cut it only because people were like, “Why are we still in the poker scene?” Maybe we’ll make a special and release it as a short film.

This is your feature film directorial debut. How did this project come to you?

[Production company] Endeavor Content brought it to me, as a project they had been developing. Tom was already attached, Lily and Jane were attached, the script was written. It was really just finding a partner who understood the dynamics of friendship.

I had come off a very successful film called The Climb, which had premiered at Cannes and won a jury prize there. In fact, it was supposed to go to theaters, scheduled to release March 20, 2020. It wasn’t really able to get the theatrical release I think that movie deserved. [The film ultimately received a small theatrical run in November 2020, before the Covid vaccine rollout, when cinema attendance was still low.]

So coming off of that, it felt like a natural segue to talk about friendship and sports. That was the studio’s view of it. When we got into the weeds with the actors and really started digging into the material, it became the right ground for exploring those themes in a cinematic comedy.

When you say “cinematic comedy,” how was this film different than if it had gone straight to streaming?

If you’re on a TV while somebody is ironing their clothes, there’s a demand to constantly be making jokes. You’re in the background while someone is doing a second activity. In a theater setting, you have the ability to play jokes the way I think jokes really work, which is slowly. You’re there, you’re committed, you’ve living in the moment. I think that’s one of the magic pieces of this movie, why it’s so potent in its emotional structure, is because we were given that freedom because we were going to cinemas.

Do you worry that it came across differently in the trailer, which was much more “a joke per second”?

Yeah, but trailers are a part of our business. They’re a way to achieve a particular goal, but I don’t think anyone who sees the trailer will be disappointed in our film. You get all the comedy and all the fun that’s in the trailer, but I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the deeper themes that the movie really seeks to unpack.

Why is it important to you that audiences see this in a cinema?

I’ve done independent films before, but the prospect of being behind a nationally-released movie is so thrilling to me. Not just the exposure of it, because there’s plenty of ways to consume content these days. But movies deserve to be watched in theaters with other people in the dark. The idea that a project I’ve worked on can exist on that platform, to me, is unbelievably thrilling.

We tested it and at first it’s in small groups. But when we really started testing it with a full, live audience of people, that’s really when the DNA of the movie shines. There’s all this conversation about the power of horror in movie theaters, but I fundamentally think the power of comedy has the same potency. It has the same level of camaraderie, of a shared experience, as you get if you’re scared. So I think there’s a place for comedy in big theaters that I’m so happy to be a part of.

Now that you’ve spent so much time with Tom Brady, are you going to announce your retirement from film directing, only to return a month later?

[Laughs.] I’ll officially do that right now. You have the inside scoop.


 AT THE MOVIES

What was your hometown cinema growing up?

I was in a small town, so my hometown didn’t have a movie theater. I had to drive 15 minutes to the closest one, a small three-screen multiplex in McMinnville, Oregon. That was my sanctuary for cinema.

What is your all-time favorite moviegoing memory or experience?

I’ll tell you a weird one. I had a friend who was a bit of a strange bird. We were maybe 12 or 13. He really wanted to see The Pelican Brief. His dad took us, and it was not like anything I had ever ingested. I was definitely more on the roller coaster ride of comedies and spectacles. But it was a strangely profound experience, just because I saw an “adult” movie. The movie was great, but it stuck out as a profound moment for me because I felt like I was a grown-up.

Were you the youngest person in that theater by 20 years?

Double that! [Laughs.]

What’s your favorite snack at the movie theater concession stand?

Ice cream Dibs are my Achilles heel. My only problem is I eat the entire box before the trailers even start.

Then you’ve just got to buy two boxes.

You’re so right. Popcorn is the long-term holdout. But I generally hand it to my wife and forget about it, until I’m deep into the movie. Then I find refuge in the popcorn.

Rita Moreno plays Maura, Jane Fonda plays Trish, Lily Tomlin plays Lou and Sally Field plays Betty in '80 For Brady.' Image courtesy: Paramount.
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