Chris Tucker (L) and Ben Affleck attend the premiere of “Air” during the 2023 SXSW conference and festival at the Paramount Theatre on March 18, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
*Chris Tucker is making his big screen return for the first time in seven years.
The actor/comedian was on hand for the world premiere of the feature drama “Air” during South by Southwest in Austin on Saturday.
In the Ben Affleck-directed film, Tucker plays Howard White, who is vice president of the Jordan Brand. “Air” is based on a true story and stars Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike employee behind the Air Jordan shoe line. The movie also stars Viola Davis as Jordan’s mother and Affleck as Nike co-founder and former CEO Phil Knight.
“My agent called me and said they got a movie about something to do with Michael Jordan, and they want you to play this character called Howard White,” Tucker told PEOPLE in a new interview.
“There wasn’t no words, it wasn’t no character, it wasn’t there in the script. I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s my friend.’ So I called him [White] and found out that it was, he was in this movie and I said, ‘Whoa man, but they said it’s not much, but you know, I’m considering it cause it’s you.’ “
Tucker said his love of the NBA icon convinced him to take on the role.
“Then I talked to Ben and Matt and they said, ‘Hey man, we want you to come in, have fun. This is what we are doing. It’s like making a movie with your friends’. And I said, ‘Okay.’ I love Michael Jordan. it’s my friend Howard White. Ben said I can do whatever I want to do. I love the brand, the Jordan brand. Let’s do it.” Tucker explained to PEOPLE.
During a Q&A at the premiere, Tucker praised Affleck and Damon as “brilliant geniuses”.
“I had a ball,” he told PEOPLE. “I had a ball working with them and I called Ben The Player Coach cause he’s an actor and director. So he knows how we roll, and he gives you that respect and that space to do your thing.”
Tucker’s last film was 2016’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”
“Air” will release theatrically on April 5.
Scroll up to watch the trailer.
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