Not many films cause audiences to laugh, cry and applaud. But that's what transpired Wednesday night during a sneak preview of ESPN's latest 30 for 30 documentary.
The film, entitled "The '85 Bears," features a unique and in-depth look at the Super Bowl XX champions, beginning just before Mike Ditka was hired as coach in 1982 through the present-day health issues affecting former quarterback Jim McMahon.
Where are they now? Members of the 1985 Bears were in Chicago for multiple events celebrating the 30th anniversary of the club's Super Bowl victory.
The documentary is directed by Jason Hehir and narrated by Vince Vaughn, a Lake Forest native who also serves as executive producer of the film, which will debut on ESPN next Thursday night at 8 p.m. (CT).
Hehir and Vaughn attended the premiere Wednesday night at the AMC River East theaters in Chicago along with several members of the 1985 Bears, including McMahon, Mike Singletary, Gary Fencik, Steve McMichael, Otis Wilson, Matt Suhey, Emery Moorehead and Kevin Butler.
One of the main storylines in the film revolves around defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan's close relationship with his players and how he co-existed with Ditka even though the two coaches often butted heads.
During an interview before the premiere, Singletary characterized his relationship with Ryan as "really special," saying: "Buddy is just a tremendous guy in my life. He taught me a lot. I learned so much from him about football and life."
Asked what he hopes people take away from the film, Singletary said: "What a team can do. No matter how many characters you have, no matter how many crazy guys you have, if you have leadership, you have imagination, then you have a chance to have something very special."
The '85 Bears dominated the NFL and brought fun back to pro football. They worked extremely hard on the field and partied hard off the field, leading to one of the most memorable teams and seasons in sports history.
Steve McMichael points to himself holding up coach Ditka on the 30 for 30's film poster.
"Never, never, never again will that many characters be amassed on a team," said McMichael, a defensive tackle on the '85 Bears who was nicknamed "Mongo" after the character played by Alex Karras in the movie "Blazing Saddles." "Even our third-string quarterback, Mike Tomczak, who was a rookie at the time, had a radio show."
Those interviewed extensively in the documentary include Ditka, Singletary, McMahon, Fencik, Wilson, Butler, Dan Hampton, William Perry and Jimbo Covert.
"It was a team, it really was," Ditka said. "I know our defense got so much of the credit and they deserved it because they were maybe the best defense I've ever seen in any era. But we had a good offense. We had a great offensive line, we had great running backs in Walter [Payton] and Matt [Suhey], we had a quarterback who was just as gutty as he could be in Jim and good receivers. We had a good football team and we did things the right way."
The '85 Bears not only beat people, they beat them up in intimidating fashion.
"It was take-no-prisoners," Ditka said. "These guys went out and played football. It wasn't buddy-buddy. They weren't patting people on the back; they were knocking them down. That's what they did and that's how we played. We were the bully on the block."