In a move that no one saw coming, Tom Brady will be returning to play for his beloved New England Patriots. But before you call your extended family in Boston to celebrate, know that this homecoming is only for a movie. In “80 for Brady,” the three-time MVP-winning quarterback, who jumped to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, is playing the 2017 version of himself at Super Bowl LI. Brady wears his famous blue-and-white jersey, face paint and a near buzz cut, all for a scene in which he re-creates one of his biggest comebacks. (He overcame the Atlanta Falcons’ 28-3 lead to pull out a victorious career-defining shocker.) The Paramount Pictures comedy, from director and co-writer Kyle Marvin, will open in theaters in 2023 and follows a quartet of octogenarian fans — played by Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Lily Tomlin — who travel to Houston to root for their favorite sports idol. Think “Book Club,” but with Tom Brady.
Not to be outdone by these formidable Hollywood icons, Brady recruited his own posse to join him on screen. In the film, Brady lights up the field with former Patriots players Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, who all clock cameos as themselves. “We’ve been part of a lot of battles together,” Brady says on a May afternoon, lounging in a Las Vegas hotel suite on the day before a charity golf game. He’s dressed in his new athleisure line, called (what else?) Brady. “We’ve never been on a movie set together, but it felt like we were back in the locker room when we were there,” Brady says. “Anytime I get my friends involved in things that I’m doing, it makes it that much more enjoyable for me.”
These days, the 44-year-old star is trying to enjoy himself as he prepares for his next act. Yes, he’s playing for the Buccaneers this coming season, but he’s also building a second career as an entrepreneur. After retiring for a ridiculously short 40 days earlier this year, even he admits he doesn’t know when he’ll be stepping down from football. Brady recently signed a 10-year deal with Fox Sports for $375 million to be a lead NFL analyst on-air, although that won’t start until he’s finished playing.
For now, he intends to corner the fitness market with TB12, a program which is built around a regimen created and co-founded by his body coach Alex Guerrero. For another side business, he’s hired more than 100 employees to run Autograph, an NFT platform for sports and pop culture collectibles. And after making the Facebook Watch series “Tom vs Time” and the ESPN docuseries “Man in the Arena,” he’s looking to produce movies, TV shows and documentaries with his content company 199 Productions (named after his sixth-round position in the 2000 NFL draft). Not all these projects will feature him, according to his agent Jason Hodes at WME. But in some cases, it makes sense: “80 for Brady” was pitched by an agent whose grandmother is a Brady superfan.
Perhaps most ambitious, Brady’s clothing line is co-founded by Jens Grede, the Swedish businessman behind Frame and Kim Kardashian’s shapewear brand Skims, with New York designer Dao-Yi Chow as creative director. Brady’s apparel collection — which includes tanks, T-shirts, hoodies and pants — is available at Nordstrom and online; as it expands, it could make a serious dent in the market given his fanbase. “In particular, the underwear has exceeded all our wildest expectations,” Grede says. “It’s been our biggest launch to date.”
Of course, Brady helped sales by wearing the boxer briefs in a viral video recorded by his wife, Gisele Bündchen. Whenever he does retire, he plans to move to Miami, where he’s building a house for his family. “It’s a different lifestyle in Florida,” says Brady, who has three kids. In a lengthy conversation, he spoke with Variety about what’s next.
Do you know when you’re going to be done playing football?
I really don’t. I would say it’s year to year: Could this be my last year? Absolutely. Could I change my mind? Absolutely. I’ve realized I don’t have five years left. I want to do it my way. I want to give it everything I got and see where I’m at. My body feels really good. I’ve had a lot of traumatic injuries over the years, but if things go really smoothly and we win, that’d be great.
You’ve won seven Super Bowl championships. Did you come back because you want one more victory?
I think that would obviously be the greatest way to end. I just have a competitive fire that got the best of me.
What made you announce your retirement in February?
I made the decision in the moment, and I felt it was the right thing for the team to let the Bucs know. You need time to plan. And then through conversations with Bruce [Arians, the team’s former coach], Jason [Licht, general manager] and my wife, I felt like I could still play and compete.
And it’s not that I’m any less committed once I say that it’s a yes, but I’ve got a 14-year-old son who lives in New York City — he wants time. My wife, she’s been incredibly supportive of my career over a long period of time. So I had to talk with her, you know what I mean? Those decisions get made with me as a family. And I have two younger kids, one 12 and one 9 — everyone’s got challenging lives.
Yes, but a 40-day retirement is unheard of.
I know, I know. I would have preferred to un-retire in July if I wanted to play. But I couldn’t. If I said I’m not playing, they’d make plans. So I felt there was a lot of pressure to make a decision quickly. And then ultimately, I just decided, “Yes, let’s do it.” And once I said that, it was like — OK, here we go.
Let’s talk about all your different businesses. How did you start building these companies beyond football?
Most guys’ careers end before the age of 30, and I’ve been really lucky that I’ve had this career that I’ve loved to do for two-plus decades. Cultivating experiences that are outside my main thing, which is my sport, has always been something that I’ve been preparing for. I’ve been planning for not playing football, and football’s just continued to go. So I know that I’m at the very, very end of my career. It’s not like I have 10 years left. When I’m done, I’ll be able to transition to things that are already up and running.
You launched 199 Productions, which is making “80 for Brady” for Paramount and “Greatest Roasts of All Time” for Netflix. What kinds of movies and TV shows do you see yourself producing?
Things that are authentic to who I am. Things that are inspiring, aspirational and inspirational, fun and entertaining. I’m not into too many serious things.
In “80 for Brady,” you play yourself. How big of a role is it?
Small. Two days. I learned a lot.
How do you approach playing a version of yourself?
It’s really interesting. I find it challenging — sometimes hard.
Because you’re always paying attention to yourself as yourself rather than the character you’re playing. I don’t think that’s natural for me. What I’ve done for 23 years in sports is play myself. There’s no acting. It’s me on the field. When I’m pissed, I’m pissed. When I’m happy, I’m happy. I’m not playing a role. So when I got to go play a role, I have no programming for that. There’s not a lot of experiences to fall back on other than a few commercials that I’ve done.
Do you have a big scene with Jane Fonda?
With Jane a little bit — all the ladies at once. Mostly with Lily. She’s really funny, and when you see it, they make it look so natural. You’re on set and you’re going through your scene and she says something, but it’s not really on script. I’m like, “Is this just her normal?” And then the scene cuts, and I don’t know if she’s still in character or not. I don’t even know the etiquette for that.
So you didn’t stay in character?
I go back to being me.
Did you go to the movies a lot as a kid?
That’s what we did on Friday and Saturday nights with our friends. It’s different now, though, because it’s more special to go to the theater. We saw “Top Gun” the other night. That was badass. I brought my oldest son, and I made him watch the first “Top Gun,” which he loved.
What other movies have you recently seen?
I really love documentaries just because I really feel like I’m learning something. I really love “Free Solo,” “Meru,” “The Alpinist,” “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” “Citizenfour.” “Icarus” was another great one. These are real-life stories — part of what inspired me to do “Tom vs Time” and even “Man in the Arena” to a degree.
Do you think there could be a scripted version of “Man in the Arena”?
I never thought about that.
HBO has “Winning Time” about the Lakers. In the dramatized version of your career, how would your relationship be portrayed with Patriots coach Bill Belichick?
We’ve had a great relationship. I mean, there’s ebbs and flows. We had great success and we did amazing things as a team. I had 20 incredible years in New England. I learned a lot, grew up — it toughened me up. You’re never going to hear me say anything negative about my experience there.
Do you watch a lot of TV?
A little bit. I don’t have the time. I watched “Ted Lasso” for the first time, and I loved that. I started “Yellowstone.” Before I had kids, my wife and I would binge-watch a lot of shows.
“24,” “The Shield,” “West Wing.” It was never “Seinfeld” or “Friends” — I didn’t really watch any of those. We would binge-watch “Entourage.”
You were in the “Entourage” movie, playing yourself.
Yeah. Love that show. It was so cheesy.
You’re active on social media. How did you find your online persona?
If you look at my social, I want that to be fun and reflective. I want people to enjoy it. Lives are hard. I feel like I’m the kid who grew up in San Mateo, Calif., that found something I love to do. And it came with a lot of other stuff. Trying to manage and juggle that is my own unique challenge in my life — and to not lose touch with what’s really important, which is being a good dad, having a good family. And then the things I’m doing — committing to my team — I want to be good in those things too.
Belichick always used to say, “Do your job.” That’s the truth: Do your job. You can just do what you can do. The better you are, the better you want to be around people who are equally talented. So, find good people to be with, do your job, let them do their job and good shit happens.
You started Autograph, a company that sells NFTs. Are NFTs for real — and are they here to stay?
I definitely think it’s here to stay. I think the thing for me is my kids interact with their digital devices every day. I was in an era where if I wanted to commemorate an event, I kept the ticket, the jersey, the trading card. I think it’s going to be different going forward. People are going to find ways to collect and create value through digital collectibles. And I see how my 12-year-old interacts with his Oculus and his iPads. And my daughter: “Dad, can I have $10?” “For what?” “Oh, I want to buy some Robux.”
Do you collect any NFTs?
A couple. I have a Bored Ape.
Why did you want to have your own clothing line?
I worked hard on it for four years — I wanted to get into the apparel business for a long time. I always enjoyed fashion since I bought my first Tom Ford suit in 2009; it was like, damn, this is amazing. I think the guy’s unbelievably talented, makes every guy look better in what they’re wearing. And my wife’s always like, “Listen, I’m the one that was in fashion. I don’t even care like you care.”
Are the pants you’re wearing part of your line?
Yeah. It was all built around I’m doing a lot of things in the day; I’m putting this on in the morning, and I’m wearing it all day, and I want it to look great.
Do you try everything on yourself?
I see 90% of it.
We’ll soon see you on Fox Sports as a broadcaster. How did that deal come about?
They approached me after the season. And there’s a lot of history that I have with Fox. I spoke with their executives, and I really had to evaluate if that’s what I wanted to commit to. I have a very unique perspective on football and how it should be played, and what good plays look like and what bad plays look like. I feel like I can still have a great impact on the game. I could stay in the game, doing what I love to do, talking about this incredible sport.
Did ESPN also try to hire you?
Yeah, at different times. There were a lot of different opportunities I was approached with.
What kind of broadcaster will you be?
I’m there to support. I’m there to inform. I have a great knowledge of the game. And I also have very high expectations of what players and coaches should do in the field. I’ll have no problem being critical of things that I disagree with, and I’ll have no problem praising things that are exceptional.
Will you have a different broadcasting voice?
Boom!, like a John Madden? No, I’ll be myself.
When Fox started the negotiations, had you decided to retire?
Initially, I told them I didn’t want to do it. There was a lot of different emotions. I couldn’t make the decision from the place where I needed to be. For the first time, I was a free agent in life. It’s different than being a free agent in football when one of 31 teams can come after you. I had lots of different people say, “You’re free now; we’d love to have you involved in” — different parts of football, broadcasting, business and finance.
And then when you decided to return to football, were Fox Sports executives OK with that?
When will we see you on Fox Sports?
When I’m done playing.
So there’s a chance we might not see you on Fox for another two or three years?
Obviously, there’s a chance. But I’m very close to the end.
If the Bucs don’t make the playoffs this season, could you start broadcasting then?
No. I want to focus on football. I really want to commit to this year to be as best as I possibly can.
Do you think there could be an openly gay quarterback in the NFL?
Could there literally be? Yeah, absolutely.
And he would be accepted by players and fans?
I don’t think it would surprise them. There are gay players — not that many openly gay players, for one reason or another. But there’s been very successful gay players in men’s sports for sure.
Have you ever considered a career in politics?
Probably not. I don’t think anyone’s fond of politics these days.
Are you and Donald Trump still in touch?
No. I haven’t talked to him in a lot of years.
When you played golf with him, who would win?
This was 17 or 18 years ago. I was so young. I got to go to a private golf course. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.
In the press, it seemed like the two of you were close.
I think they just mischaracterized a lot. And my personality isn’t ever one to insult anybody. I have plenty of my own flaws. I’m not here to point out anyone else’s flaws. There are things that I agree with. There are things that I don’t. There are things I agree with my wife about. There are things that I don’t. I love her to death, but we don’t always see eye to eye. I don’t see eye to eye with anyone. And I’m not responsible for what other people say. I’m really responsible for what I say. So if people want to say things that I said or that I’m about, that’s up to them, and I’m not going to respond to all those things all the time either.
Do you have a sense of what life will be like when you retire?
I don’t have a rhythm or sense of it. I’ll still want to stay in shape, but not in the intense way.
Are you still going to be strict about your diet?
Yeah. I don’t even enjoy eating things that probably aren’t going to give my body what it needs. I wouldn’t say I’m going to turn into a couch potato.
So you’d eat ice cream?
I mean, I eat ice cream. I’m not very super strict with my diet. I don’t want to give off the impression that I’m some psychopath about a diet. I just make good choices most of the time.
I think people assume that you’re a strict eater.
It’s not even about the diet. You’ve got to see the process of food being grown. Just because it’s in a grocery store doesn’t mean it’s food. My view of food is, like, I need things that are going to give my body what it needs. Does that make sense? I don’t want calories. If I need nutrients, I need that from soil. It’s not going to be from Frosted Flakes. Now, because they sell it in a grocery store, people correlate that to “I’m going to get food.” In my view, that food would have never allowed me to play football until I’m 44.