30 For 30: The ’85 Bears

Vince Vaughn Shares His Love Affair With The Chicago Bears

On the 30th anniversary of the Chicago Bears’ epic Super Bowl XX championship, ESPN brings us a nostalgic yet fresh look at one of the most iconic teams in NFL history in 30 for 30: The ’85 Bears (airing on ESPN Thursday, Feb. 4 at 9pmET) Vince Vaughn and Emmy-winning producer/director Jason Hehir (The Fab Five) discussed their passion project at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour last month.

“I wanted to personalize these guys who are seen as giants among men and show that they have the same sorts of hopes and fears and the same sorts of relationships and bonds they form in locker rooms that the rest of us have in the workplace or neighborhoods or things like that,” Hehir explains.

A short clip shared some rare and emotional footage, including a recent moment with former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan and Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary. “We weren’t even expecting to get Buddy Ryan in this thing. I knew he was very ill. And the more interviews we did, the more the players, I think, started to trust the storyline that we were pursuing,” Hehir says.

He credits Hall of Famer Dan Hampton for calling Ryan’s nurse and suggesting they allow camera crews to come film him. “The dominoes fell from there because Mike [Singletary] and Buddy, as you will see in the film, have been very, very close from the time that Mike was a rookie with the Bears, and they are almost like a father and son now. And that visit that you saw, given Buddy’s current health, is probably the last time that they will see each other or the last time, at least, that Mike will come down to visit him.”

For Vaughn this story was extremely personal, having grown up in that era in the suburbs of Chicago. “It’s something I’m passionate about, so it was an easy thing to be a part of and lend myself to,” he tells us. “To be that bad for that long and then to have a team that is really undeniably the greatest team in the history of the league was such a special, special year.”

And that special feeling went beyond the playing field. “These guys would say what was on their mind to the media. They would, you know, kind of hang out and let it all, kind of, fall in front of everybody, and the city fell in love with them,” Vaughn gushes. “They felt very Chicago. They felt very authentic. And people, myself included, didn’t just love the winning and what they did. They loved the dynamic and the personalities and the friendships that were very apparent there with that season.”

Vaughn’s been a lifelong Chicago Bears fan and grew up watching the games with his family. “We always watched, my dad and myself. Being in Lake Forest, I used to walk down and watch the practices as a kid at Halas Hall. We were very aware of the tradition and what [Bears founder] George Halas did, obviously, with the college draft and bringing Red Grange to the Bears.”

As for today’s Bears led by quarterback Jay Cutler, Vaughn says, “I think the whole team took a step up this year. I think [head coach] Fox has done a good job. It’s been one year and it looks like they took a step in the right direction and it feels like they are making good decisions, so it will be interesting to see what they do.” — Barb Oates, Hopper Magazine