Meet the real-life New England 'soul sisters' who just might make '80 for Brady' a hit

From left, Cindy Adams waits while Michelle Papazian adjusts her Tom Brady jersey with the custom letters "Ladies 4 Brady" at their friend Edith Siegel Wolfson's home in Natick, MA on Feb. 2, 2023. Adams, Papazian, and Wolfson, all in their sixties, attended a preview screening of "80 for Brady" for Wolfson's birthday last weekend. (Sophie Park / For The Times)
Cindy Adams, left, waits while Michelle Papazian adjusts her Tom Brady jersey with the custom letters "Ladies 4 Brady" in Natick, Mass. (Sophie Park / For The Times)

“80 for Brady,” in theaters Friday, follows four best friends — Lou (Lily Tomlin), Trish (Jane Fonda), Betty (Sally Field) and Maura (Rita Moreno) — as they make their way to Houston to watch quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots play in the 2017 Super Bowl.

And at early screenings held here in Dedham, Mass., about 10 miles from the team’s home turf, Gillette Stadium, fans dressed in Patriots gear cheered on Brady, wide receiver Julian Edelman and the other stars of that year’s championship game as if they were seeing it for the first time.

Katie Callahan, 41, of Westwood, Mass., was there in the flesh when the Patriots made an extraordinary fourth-quarter comeback against the Atlanta Falcons after being down 28-3 — “It was wild,” she recalled. “The stadium was silent.” She was happy to relive it through the movie as part of a girls’ night out with her friends Phyllis Musto, Sheila Matthews and Brenda Bruno.

Musto vividly remembered watching that 2017 game and partaking in some of the very same superstitious behavior — such as the complicated ritual Lou re-creates to bring the Pats luck — in the movie. Particularly that she didn’t let anyone move from their seat once the game went into sudden death overtime.

Mary Ellen Horgan, 85, also of Westwood, came to the movie with her friend Susan Hurley, 80. “I’ve always been a fan of football and the Patriots and enjoyed everything about it. For years! I’m not talking about recently. It’s my lifetime passion. Going to football games and watching them on TV,” Horgan said.

But the majority of attendees were less focused on Brady, who retired for a second time this week after a post-Patriots stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, than on the film’s true draw: its quartet of beloved leading women.

“The movie dispels some of the myths about, ‘Oh you old ladies,” Edith Siegel Wolfson of Natick, Mass. said. “Sally Field at 76 is the baby. How many movies are there where the women are the real stars of the movie and women of a certain age. These women are still unbelievably dynamic in every way. These four women are some of our greatest actresses and they’ve still got it.”

Siegel Wolfson, who is in her 60s (“Age is a number and mine is unlisted,” she laughs), came to an advance screening of the film with her two friends Cindy Adams and Michelle Papazian as part of her birthday celebration. “We’ve all been through some stuff this year,” Adams said. “And we are here together. Our three ‘60s for Brady’ are about doing fun things together and making it a priority. Intentional fun living and living in the ever-present now.”

Papazian, who organized the outing, described Siegel Wolfson and Adams as her “soul sisters.” “They have taught me how to appreciate football, sports and Tom Brady. What really kind of spoke to me in the movie is the support of the women and the enduring relationships over time. As you go on, there aren’t that many people who you have that history with. We’ve been friends for over 30 years.”

The friendships depicted in the movie resonated with Horgan as well. Even after some in her 55-and-older community have moved away, she and Hurley still regularly FaceTime with them, for instance: “They miss that group. They just want to know what’s going on. It’s just women getting together, enjoying each other’s company. Everybody is always trying to connect.”

From left, Cindy Adams, Michelle Papazian and Edith Siegel Wolfson sit in recliners.
From left, Cindy Adams, Michelle Papazian and Edith Siegel Wolfson sit for a portrait at Siegel Wolfson's home. (Sophie Park / For The Times)

Director Kyle Marvin said he tried to bring the real-life rapport of the four stars into the movie. “It’s rare to see four women on screen having a good time and having those adult honest conversations with each other that might not historically be valued as much as they should be.”

Hurley, who got a kick out of the fact that her age is in the title, appreciated that the movie focused on the lives of the four main characters now, at their current age. “There’s not a lot of reminiscing, just current, which is good. They are living their life. How many movies do they do about 80-year-old women?”

That was intentional, according to Marvin. “All of us are living older. It’s a new thing to be in your 80s and just roaming around doing what you want,” he said. “The people I’ve met who are that age normally are talking about life, not death or the past. ... The beauty of what we’re trying to say in this movie is this is a fun time to be alive in your life. Not, ‘It was fun a long time ago.’”

Two scenes in particular made an impression on moviegoers in Dedham. In one, Betty tells her professor husband (Bob Balaban) that she’s not going to stop what she’s doing to help him with the paper he’s writing. But there’s no big fight between the couple, just an honest conversation. “She was saying, ‘I love you, but my friendship with these women is something that is really sustaining to me and I’m not going sacrifice it,’” Siegel Wolfson said. “There’s something about female friendship that is essential to staying who you are through all the other changes of life.”

Cindy Adams celebrates in front of a Tom Brady poster.
Cindy Adams celebrates in front of a Tom Brady poster. (Sophie Park / For The Times)

Marvin said he and Field worked closely on that scene. “That was really Sally. She had such a good yardstick of real relationships. Sometimes you forget and get stuck in a rut. ‘Why am I your support? It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It is just that I need a little bit of my own thing.’”

The other occurs when Tomlin’s character, Lou, tells Brady — who appears in the film and is a producer on it — about her battle with cancer and how he inspired her at her lowest moments. “If you fight, I’ll fight,” she tells him. Brady’s mom, Galynn Brady, was being treated for cancer during the 2016-17 season, and the Super Bowl game was the only one she was able to attend; actual footage of her hugging her son is in the movie. The movie ends with Lou and Brady having a heartfelt moment in the locker room.

“I was tearing up at the end when Lily Tomlin was talking to him. That was really special,” Siegel Wolfson said.

“That was pretty authentic,” Adams agreed. “I got choked up because it looked like he was thinking about his mom.”

“He was talking to his mom 100%,” Matthews said.

But for these ladies for Brady, an entertaining, heartwarming time with friends at the movies is just the beginning. Adams, for one, wants the movie to be shown on a big screen at the Patriots’ home field.

“Wouldn’t it be fabulous? I’m telling you, put that in the article!” she said. “The three of us would like to go to Gillette Stadium.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.