(L – R) Matt Damon, Chris Tucker, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, Chris Messina and Jason Bateman attend the world premiere of “Air” at the Paramount Theatre during the 2023 SXSW Conference And Festival on March 18, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/WireImage)
*Ben Affleck’s latest directional project is the movie “Air,” which centers on a group of Nike executives and their partnership with Michael Jordan in the 1980s.
Based on a true story, “Air” stars Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike employee behind the Air Jordan shoe line. Viola Davis also stars as Jordan’s mother and Affleck portrays Nike co-founder and former CEO Phil Knight.
Affleck says Jordan would not give his approval on the film unless Davis was cast to play his mother, Variety reports.
“I had a chance to sit down with Michael Jordan, because I just wasn’t going to make this movie without asking him, ‘What matters to you?’ Interestingly, and tellingly, he had a few things that mattered,” said Affleck at the film’s South by Southwest world premiere in Austin over the weekend.
“One of them was that Howard White needed to be in the movie,” Affleck said, referring to the vice president of the Jordan brand.
“I got the script and then had the chance again to talk to Michael. Michael Jordan, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the most intimidating, impressive men you’ll ever see in your life,” Affleck said. “He told me about his father. And then he talked about his mother. It was the first time I saw this look cross his face. It was a look of reverence, of awe, of love, and gratitude, and innocence. He said, ‘None of this would have ever happened without my mother.’ I said, ‘Who would you like to play your mom?’ He said, ‘Well, it has to be Viola Davis.”
“That’s like saying, ‘Can I play basketball on your court?’ ‘Yeah, if you get Michael Jordan.’ “Viola Davis is the best actor I’ve ever seen,” Affleck continued. “This is a hard business. It’s hard to know if you’re successful. It’s hard to know if you’ve accomplished something. But honest to God, I always felt that if i was a director one day, and I had Viola Davis in a movie, that would really be something. That would mean the world to me. And it does.”
“This is the best night of my professional life, and I want to welcome the best actor in the world,” he concluded, bringing Davis onstage for a brief moment in the spotlight before audiences got their first look at “Air.”
Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan looks on in the fourth quarter during their game against the Orlando Magic at Spectrum Center on March 03, 2023, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
As THR reports, Davis said “Air” was “an unbelievable experience that me and my husband and even my hair and makeup team still talk about to this day.” Davis’ husband, actor and producer Julius Tennon, plays Jordan’s father in the film.
“Ben’s an auteur and so unbelievably kind and respectful. It was one of our top experiences of being treated the way we felt we deserved to be treated,” Davis added.
“Air” will release theatrically on April 5.
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