Ben Affleck discusses how Michael Jordan influenced the upcoming Nike film Air, directed by him and written by Alex Convery.
Air is about Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a Nike shoe salesman who tries to secure a sponsorship deal with future basketball star Jordan. Affleck also appears in the film, alongside Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis, who plays Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Affleck reveals how he consulted Jordan to ensure the accuracy of the film. Having known Jordan for many years, Affleck sought his guidance on how to tell the story, including the casting of Deloris Jordan, who played a pivotal role in Michael’s decision to sign with Nike.
Here’s what Ben Affleck said below –
I periodically play cards sometimes with Michael, and we’ve got mutual friends, and … None of it sounds good, OK? And it’s not like he’d be like, “Oh yeah, Ben’s my boy.” (Imitating Jordan’s voice.) He’d be like, “Yeah, I know him.” Jordan is — he’s a hero to me. And I know how important and meaningful a figure he is, in particular in the African American community. If you’re going to f—k around with talking about Michael Jordan, do it respectfully. Nobody’s asking you to do a hagiography, but get it f——ng right. I’ve never known anybody with that kind of charisma and power who walks into a room and it just reverberates. And is it him or is it the way people treat him? Is it your memories of him? I don’t know, but it’s powerful. I said, “Please, can I come out?” And he was great. “Yeah, no problem. Come to the golf course.” Went out, met with him. I waited for him to finish playing. I don’t golf myself. I have to be very clear, this is not the authorized Michael Jordan story. He was not compensated in a way that would be appropriate if this were that. If you’re going to do a Michael Jordan story, they should back the f——ng truck up. This was me saying, “Mike, I’m not going to make the movie if you’re not cool with something about it. I just won’t do it. I want to know what’s important to you.” He was very clear. He was the one who told me about [Nike executive] Howard White, who wasn’t in the original script, who’s played by Chris Tucker. And I said, “Any anecdotes about your dad?” And without going into any more detail, he actually talked about his mom, who wasn’t really in the script. That’s when I understood what the movie was. Talking to him about his mom was incredibly moving, and I realized, “Oh, this isn’t about Nike.” I said, “So, do you have any ideas about who would …?” And immediately I was like, “Oh, f—k.” Because I’m about to ask him who to cast. And if I don’t get them, it’s going to look to him like I ignored him. It’s actually hard to get actors. And I knew who he was going to say because it was the same person that I’ve wanted to direct for so long, who I think is … I don’t think there’s an objective best actor. But I do think there’s a group of people who you can say, “These are the best actors in the world.” And Viola’s quite obviously among them. And [Jordan] looked at me real straight and — by the way, there’s one line for the mother character in the movie at this point — and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, he wants me to offer this to Viola Davis. How am I going to offer Viola Davis a movie with one line? That’s not going to happen.” But he was like, “That’s my mom.” He was dead serious. “Viola Davis, that’s my mom.” And that was it. Discussion was over. However it happened, it wasn’t his problem, but it was going to f——ng happen. And I was like, “OK, Mike.”Ben Affleck
Affleck was fortunate to cast Viola Davis in Air, even if it required revising the script. Not only did her selection align with Jordan’s preferences, but Davis is also a highly regarded actor who has gained even more popularity since receiving EGOT status.
For the unaware, EGOT is an abbreviation used to refer to people who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award. Davis joined this elite group after winning a Grammy for narrating the audio book of her autobiography, Finding Me.
Air boasts an impressive cast including Damon, Bateman, and Affleck alongside Davis, making her one of the many superstars featured in the upcoming Nike biopic.
With Deloris Jordan playing a prominent role in the film, Air has evolved from its original concept. Michael Jordan’s discussions about his mother led Affleck to realize that the movie is more than just about Nike but a personal story as well.
Although the plot is largely centered around the Nike Air Jordan shoes, Air will have to balance this aspect with the portrayal of Jordan’s life. As Davis takes on a more significant role, it remains to be seen how much screen time she will have in the final cut of the movie.
Air is a 2023 American biographical sports drama film directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery. The film stars Matt Damon, Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis.
Its plot chronicles the origin of the Air Jordan shoe line; a Nike, Inc. employee seeks to strike a business deal with rookie basketball player Michael Jordan.
Air premiered at South by Southwest on March 18, 2023. It is scheduled to be released in the United States on April 5, 2023, by Amazon Studios, marking it as the first film Amazon released in theaters without simultaneously premiering on Prime Video.