As a first-time feature director, Kyle Marvin had to earn his opportunity to helm 80 for Brady, and that meant winning over four of the all-time best actresses — Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field and Rita Moreno — as well as the greatest NFL player of all time, Tom Brady.
He did it by doing what Brady does so well on the field: controlling time.
“With Lily and Jane, there were a lot of conversations about creative intent and approach. These things can kind of get a little out of hand when there’s the desire to just make a ton of really slap-sticky jokes back to back. We decided, for this one, to just play it a little slower,” Marvin says. “And to play it a little smoother and, and just have people go on a ride.”
Is 80 for Brady Based on a True Story?
The film is very loosely based on the true story of four octogenarians who regularly met to watch Tom Brady play with the New England Patriots. The film’s release today comes two days after Brady’s decision to retire from the NFL, for good this time. (“Now that I’m retired I have time to go see 80 for Brady four separate times today,” the quarterback tweeted Friday morning.)
Focusing on the four women would make for a more sustainable, enduring movie than a series of gags, he reasoned.
“That’s more enjoyable than having this necessity to make a joke every five seconds about some component of being old. That’s not any fun. Let’s just take these characters on a journey.”
Though three of the four leads are in their 80s (one of the film’s running jokes is that Field’s character is younger), it avoided hacky routines about aging. What runs through it instead is an even-keeled approach to life that only comes from perseverance.
“If you heard the stories that I heard on set, these women’s life experiences are insane. It’s crazy what they’ve been through. And I think there’s something about the movie where it has a sort of smooth, even keel. And I think that organically came out of the truth of their existence, which is that you’ve got to take a kind of an even keel, and you have to just help each other through things.”
What Is 80 for Brady Really About?
The Tom Brady of the film becomes a metaphor for the women playing the long game.
“The perspective is, there’s always another season, you know what I mean?” Marvin says. “You get beat down, you lose, you have a terrible year, and then you practice. You figure out what your strategy is.
“You move teams and then you start again. And I think that’s the really admirable thing that Lily and Jane and Sally and Rita have all done, because they’ve all had problems in their career. They’ve all had ups and downs.
“And I think persistence and the ability to just say — ‘Alright, new game. We’re gonna get out there and we’re gonna try it again, we can win it’ — is what makes Tom Brady a legend. It’s why people call him the GOAT. It’s not because he had one good game, or because he’s the flashiest player around. It’s just that the guy keeps going and he keeps winning. And I think it’s a lesson we can all take to heart.”
Marvin has had his own ups and downs.
His breakthrough film The Climb, which he wrote, starred in and produced with his creative partner Michael Angelo Covino — was a Sundance hit. The film about two friends who are cyclists and occasional romantic rivals, directed by Covino, was supposed to roll out nationwide via a national publicity tour in which the two friends would bike around the country.
Then those plans were ruined, like so many things, by the COVID outbreak of March 2020.
And yet the enthusiasm for The Climb, from fans ranging from Tom Hanks to Sally Field, helped Marvin score the huge job of directing 80 for Brady. (He also starred recently in the Apple TV+ series WeCrashed.)
“When you’re trying to direct something, you’re just trying to convince everyone to say yes. And there were a lot of people to convince to say, ‘Hey, this kid who has no experience should be the one to helm this movie.’
“And “no experience” is not actually true, because I produced 10 feature films. So I’ve had the experience of making movies. And certainly know how a set runs and know how to run a set well, and to be a creative producer. But it was a big battle,” Marvin says.
Taking the high road on 80 for Brady — going for timeless character-building over gags — wasn’t the easiest approach.
“With four protagonists, you’re trying to satisfy each of their four stories. So unlike a movie where you have one protagonist, and you can just spend all your time setting up backstory, you have to get all of these plot machinations out of the way and try to satisfy four stories,” Marvin explains.
80 for Brady doesn’t go for easy jokes with Brady, either. Though he initially has just a few lines, by the end of the film he delivers a quite competent and moving monologue during an exchange with Lily Tomlin’s character, a cancer survivor. Marvin believes Brady pulled from his own family’s struggle. The film takes place in 2017, around the time his mother was recovering from chemotherapy.
“I think the thing that I said that I think helped him a lot was, ‘Just look Lily Tomlin in the eyes and say your lines. Like, just say what you’re saying, but say it to Lily Tomlin, in her eyes.’ She’s such a good acting partner. She’s such a giver when it comes to performance,” Marvin says. “I think as soon as that happened, and he started saying those things, I think he really tapped into some emotional stuff. I mean, his mother had just finished battling cancer. …. I think he had a well to dip into and I think it sort of clicked for him and he found it.”
Brady’s 199 Productions developed the film with Endevour Content, but Brady wasn’t overly involved in the project, in part because he was working hard preparing for and then taking part in what turned out to be his final NFL season.
“When he’s in season, he basically is all consumed six days out of seven. And that seventh day is spent a lot with his family and doing the things he needs to do personally. So, you know, there weren’t a lot of windows to talk. We texted a couple times. And we spoke as we sort of got toward the end of the movie,” Marvin says. “And then obviously when we locked picture, we shared it with him.
“But it was pretty, it was pretty infrequent. I mean, the truth is that he championed this story from the get go, which made it possible to happen, because it wouldn’t have worked without his participation. And his help with the NFL was amazing. Although they were pretty excited about this movie as soon as they started seeing what it was going to be. But he kind of stayed hands off in terms of the creative process. I think he knew that it was about him, and that probably would have felt a little weird to try and influence the script. And then I think he just liked where it was going. And, you know, he did ADR sessions with us to try some new things, which didn’t end up actually working. But he sort of let the movie be what it was, which was great.”