Julius Tennon and Viola Davis 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)
*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.
When Davis learned of this at Saturday’s premiere of “Air” during SXSW in Austin, the Academy Award winner told PEOPLE she was “flattered”.
“I’m just hearing about it now,” said Davis. “So yeah, so it blew my mind. I’m glad I didn’t know about it before.”
Davis’ husband, Julius Tennon, plays Jordan’s late father, James Jordan Sr. in the upcoming drama.
“It’s pretty awesome that he wanted her to play his mom,” said Tennon while accompanying his wife on the red carpet.
As THR reports, Davis previously said “Air” was “an unbelievable experience that me and my husband and even my hair and makeup team still talk about to this day.”
“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.
AUSTIN, TEXAS – MARCH 18: (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)
In “Air,” Jordan’s mother helps bring her son’s Nike Air Jordan shoe deal to fruition in 1984. The move resulted in the multi-billion dollar 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,” said Affleck at the film’s South by Southwest world premiere over the weekend. “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.”
“Air” will release theatrically on April 5.
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