When I Saw Him ‘My Knees Gave Out’

Friday night’s Palm Springs International Film Festival kicked off its openingnight with the world premiere of “80 for Brady,” Kyle Marvin’s life-affirmingcomedy about four best friends — played by Rita Moreno, Sally Field, JaneFonda and Lily Tomlin — whose love for the legendary, seven-time Super BowlChampion quarterback cuts so deep, they embark on a quest to Houston to seethe New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. That gameresulted in the Pats digging themselves out from a 25- point hole and winningthe title in overtime, a feat considered one of the greatest comebackvictories in the history of the NFL.

The audience gathered at Palm Springs High School for the screening wastickled silly by the film, based on a real-life story, with laughter andapplause echoing throughout the theater, most notably in scenes spotlightingcameos by Pats’ heroes: former tight end Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski; retired widereceiver Julian Edelman; former wide receiver Danny Amendola; and Bradyhimself, who produced the film through his 2020–launched 199 Productions, anod to Brady’s selection number in the 2000 NFL draft.

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When Turner Classic Movies host and Entertainment Weekly awards correspondentDave Karger, who moderated the post-screening Q&A, which also included “80 ForBrady” star Harry Hamilin, asked Fonda if Gronk, a sports icon whose physiquerecalls that of a Greek god, was “a natural actor,” the two-time Oscar winneranswered with signature deadpan humour: “Who cares?”

The audience erupted into raucous laughter and applause. Because, andespecially in a world so fractured by trauma and tragedy, who doesn’t want towatch a feel-good comedy about friendship and football featuring a roster ofAdonis-like NFL players? Who doesn’t want to watch four vaunted American stars— with a collective 12 Oscar nominations and five wins between them — gushingabout said football stars?

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“Tom Brady, I think he went into all of our trailers individually,” Fondacontinued. “And when he walked into my trailer at the end, my knees cool way.I had to hold onto something. I mean, he’s gorgeous. He’s so gorgeous.”

Field, a self-professed sports buff waxed nostalgic about raising three sonsand their collective passion for football, basketball and baseball. “Theyshould rename Dodgers Stadium Sally Field,” Marvin joked on stage. Field saidthat when the superstar athletes arrived on set, “I was the one out therewelcoming everybody.”

“There was no one else,” joked Tomlin. “No PAs out there, just Sally.”

“I was out there, ‘Hi guys! I’m so glad you’re here!” Field continued. “Iwanted them to feel comfortable. I was a fan and I was out there welcomingthem.”

“Tom was so gracious when he first came on the set to buy lunch. It was thefirst time he went to each of our trailers, which were our dressing rooms, andhe introduced himself as though we didn’t know who he was,” said Fonda. “Butagain, a true gentleman. He was gracious. And I had one of those huge footballsweatshirts waiting for him because my nephew is an enormous fan, and he wasso gracious. And [Tom] wrote on it for him, and my nephew now has that on thewall in a frame. [Tom] just has very good manners like that.”

Fonda, Tomlin, Field and Moreno chatted about everything from the agingprocess to neck problems to sports stats after the screening. To wit, Kargermentioned the dance scenes in the film, asking “Who needed the most help withchoreography?”

None of the women missed a beat.

“Whenever I would think, ‘I can’t do it,’ well, Rita could do it,” said Fondabefore gesturing to Moreno: “You’re just amazing!”

Moreno, who famously won the Academy Award for her star turn as Anita in the1962 musical “West Side Story,” threw up her hands in mock exasperation. “OhGod, what a burden,” she exclaimed. “I’m 92!”

She then got up and danced around the stage, and the audience again burst outinto applause. Poking fun at herself whilst twirling around, she said “I can’tdo it because I’ve got terrible knees.” She then gestured back at Fonda.

“I’ve never laughed as hard as when I saw [Jane] bounce around [duringrehearsals]. Do you remember?” Moreno said. “And that’s when I said, she’sgonna steal this fucking movie.”

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