Walter Payton: Producer’s Notes

A Football Life, Behind the Scenes, Chicago Bears

When my co-producer Angela Torma and I began working on our outline for the Payton show, our top priority was to depict one of the game’s greatest figures in a way that had never been done before.

While researching Walter’s life we discovered that every book, article and feature done about him was exactly the same: a valentine about what a great player and person he was.  While these stories were not inaccurate, we suspected they were also not complete.  We wanted to dig deeper and find out who Payton really was.

We spent over 5 months flying all over the country for interviews and shoots.  We scoured dozens of media outlets to acquire never before seen footage.  We cancelled summer vacations and worked countless weekends to get Walter’s story right.  We discovered that Payton had many sides and was a complex man.  On the field he was one of the best to ever play the game.   Off it, he had flaws like we all do.  The finished product is a show that Angela and I are very proud of, and hope you enjoy.


FAVORITE INTERVIEW – Jarrett Payton.  He has a larger than life personality and a terrific sense of humor, just like his Dad.  Jarrett told me dozens of stories that I wish we had time to include in the show.  He and Walter were invited to the White House in the early 90’s.  Jarrett got to order any food he wanted (“. . .hot dogs and pancakes, they were delicious!”) and got to play a round of golf with President Bush.  Jarrett got into a lot of trouble when he nearly flipped the golf cart in which he and the President were riding.

FUNNIEST ANSWER – Jarrett Payton – I asked him if he ever played TECMO BOWL and used his Dad in the game.  Jarrett’s face lit up.  He said he would be the Bears all the time and try to score as many touchdowns as he could with Walter Payton.  His Dad would ask him, “How many touchdowns did I have this time”?

PRODUCTION ISSUES – I don’t know what was going on with Mother Nature this summer.  There was 100 degree heat in Dallas while interviewing Emmitt Smith.  Hurricane Irene and the earthquake made things interesting.  I was in Chicago doing interviews when an earthquake hit the East Coast.  My camera man Brian Murray told me there was an earthquake back home in New Jersey and I thought he was messing with me.  It wasn’t until after I saw the news report and called my wife that I believed him.

FAVORITE CITY – Chicago.  I had never been before but quickly fell in love.  I attended my first Cubs game at Wrigley and ate enough hot dogs to last a year.  I’m a native New Yorker and I’ve always been a big fan of Nathans or Sabrett dirty-water dogs, but I think I’ve been converted.   Something about the spicy pepper and the pickle.

Click here for our complete collection of posts on the biography series, “A Football Life.

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