Rare is the time when people aren’t talking about Tom Brady, but the NFL great proved to be the most popular topic of discussion on the red carpet in Palm Springs on Friday night.
The desert city hosted the world premiere of Paramount Pictures’ road trip comedy 80 for Brady at Richard Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School, as its stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, Rita Moreno and Harry Hamlin (attending with wife Lisa Rinna) added some Hollywood star power to the opening night festivities of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
While Brady was not in attendance — his Tampa Bay Buccaneers will soon be heading to the NFL playoffs — his key teammates on the film were keen to talk about the first-time producer who makes a cameo in director Kyle Marvin’s film. Penned by (Boston native) Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, 80 for Brady follows a group of best friends who make it their mission to get to the Super Bowl and meet Brady during what turns out to be an epic game in 2017 for his then-New England Patriots.
Even the legendary Fonda said she was “completely starstruck” working with the veteran quarterback. “He was kind and humble, which is hard to believe considering how brilliant he is at what he does, but it’s true. He was also sweet and polite,” gushed Fonda. “My knees actually got weak when he walked into my trailer. I’m in awe of that kind of skill. When somebody is the best in the world at what they do, you have to honor that and respect it. I was just awestruck.”
During an interview with THR last summer, Brady said that he was impressed watching his accomplished co-stars do their thing on set. “We found the most amazing actresses,” he said. “Lily, Jane, Rita and Sally. They brought it all to life. At the end of the day, watching them act and watching them perform was so cool.”
Tomlin returned the compliments on Friday night. “Well, it was pretty fabulous,” she said. “He’s a good actor. He’s very personable and unassuming.” Tomlin continued by explaining that she had a particularly long scene with Brady that had quite the impact. “Just looking at his face and his eyes and watching him listen to me as an actor trying to reciprocate in the same way. I felt like I was that [real-life] woman from Boston who was in her 80s. I felt, in fact, as though he was my son when I had to do this speech with him.”
Field, fresh from last night’s Film Awards where she presented the Vanguard Award to The Fabelmans filmmaker Steven Spielberg, her friend of 50 years, said Brady turned in a wonderful performance in 80 for Brady. “He’s clearly a performer. He knows where to put any kind of adrenaline he might have and knows how to ride it over the top. He’s a jaw-dropping, once-in-a-liftetime athlete and that’s really hard to be around. Just the fact that I was there, I mean, I’ve been a fan and watched him play — who hasn’t? He’s really staggering, not only for his physical skills but for his mental skills. He’s a chess player out there [on the field].”
Someone who knows what that takes is executive producer Michael Covino, also Marvin’s producing partner. Covino played football for 16 years including stints at Fordham University and Occidental College. “It was my first passion. I always wanted to make movies but I also wanted to play pro football, and it became evident early on in my college career that it wasn’t going to happen, so it looked like I better start pivoting and get into film pretty soon,” said Covino, who added that when the script came their way, they jumped on it. “A friend of ours was running the studio and knew about my past in football and how much I loved it. Obviously, I’m a big Tom Brady fan and anyone who understands the sport can recognize just how incredible what he’s been able to accomplish over the last 20-something years.”
Watching Brady able to zero in on this new endeavor was also eye-opening for Covino. “Anything he sets out to tackle, he does so with a level of intensity, persistence, focus and determination that you can’t doubt him no matter what it is,” he continued. “I’ve always admired him, but I think he has this focus that is unparalleled. When he decides to do something, he’s on it.”
Speaking of, Marvin teased a scene in the film — that audiences can see when it opens in theaters on Feb. 3 — that displays Brady’s level of commitment. “He was so open about what he knew and didn’t know and what he was comfortable with and what he wasn’t comfortable with,” said Marvin, who earlier told THR how the NFL approved never-before-seen footage from the 2017 Super Bowl for his film. “It was an incredible experience all around, and there’s a moment in the film that you’ll see where he just goes for it. It was incredible, and everyone on set was taken aback by his level of just going for it, which I think is his motto in life. He goes full bore with everything he’s got.”
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