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How do you create suspense in a movie built around Super Bowl LI, the legendary 2017 matchup between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, which saw the Patriots trail the Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter only to rally and win 34-28 in overtime? That was one of the challenges facing Kyle Marvin when he agreed to direct 80 for Brady, which will have its world premiere Jan. 6 as the opening-night film at the 34th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Marvin — who, along with his writing and producing partner Michael Angelo Covino, starred in 2019’s The Climb, which explored male friendship — tackles a different sort of friendship in Brady. It follows four old friends, spry octogenarians played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field and Rita Moreno, traveling to the Super Bowl to cheer on their hero, then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
As for the big game, Marvin says: “We knew we weren’t going to alter history or surprise anyone with the outcome of the game. But football also has a lot to do with what people are experiencing while watching it. If you ask, ‘Hey do you remember Super Bowl LI?’ they inevitably will not tell you about the game but where they were and who they were with. Our film is a story that happens at the same time as the game — and our goal is to line up the journey of the football game with the journey of these women.”
Fonda and Tomlin, as well as Brady himself, already were attached to the project, written by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, when Marvin became involved in the fall of 2021; Field and Moreno were soon added to the cast. “All of these women have defined American comedy the way I think it should be: character-forward, jokes in the back seat,” the director says. “That is how we wrote and angled the characters and how they performed it. Most of the effort and energy went into making sure their relationships felt whole and complete. I know the trailer is very jokey because that’s what trailers do, but hopefully the movie itself leans more on the character journey and the comedy is a bonus.”
In addition to acting in and producing the movie, Brady helped the filmmakers work with the NFL, which lent its support, not only approving logos but also providing footage of the game itself. “Some of it,” says Marvin, “includes never-before-seen camera angles from the field [the game took place at NRG Stadium in Houston]. It gave us lots of opportunities to blend the real with the narrative fiction that we’re telling.” Rather than travel to Houston, the production filmed exteriors on sets it constructed at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Banc of California Stadium in order to take advantage of California tax credits.
Even though the movie’s four principals together account for more than 200 years of showbiz experience, “I didn’t have to make a single allowance for age,” Marvin says. “They were all incredible dynamos. It was more about wrangling their energy and keeping it focused. Lily was always keeping me on my toes — she’s sharper than I will ever be. Jane’s a consummate professional, Sally is incredible, and Rita has more energy than the entire set combined.”
But, he adds of the movie, which Paramount will release Feb. 3 (a week ahead of this year’s Super Bowl): “It’s not a film about age. It’s a film geared more toward a universal feeling of friendship, camaraderie and family.”
Sampling the Eclectic Lineup
Here’s a taste of the 134 films on tap at the PSIFF.
THE ART OF EATING: THE LIFE OF M.F.K. FISHER
Gregory Bezat’s doc pays tribute to the life and influence of the celebrated author of books like The Gastronomical Me.
THE BLUE CAFTAN
On the international Oscar shortlist, this Moroccan film features a shopkeeper and her closeted husband.
Also on the international Oscar shortlist, this Belgian film about two 13-year-old friends is Lukas Dhont’s follow-up to Girl.
From the director of Blackfish comes an exposé about the world’s superpowers’ control of water and food supplies.
Gabriel Martins’ drama centers on a Brazilian family’s struggles after the election of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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