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Ben Affleck 'AIR'

Ben Affleck Reveals Michael Jordan’s Demands Before Making ‘AIR’ Film

Recently, HBO’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty highlighted the challenges of creating a sports TV series or film. Athletes can be sensitive, and if their story is not portrayed accurately (in their opinion), the producers could face significant backlash. Therefore, if you plan to make a movie about the one and only Michael Jordan, you best meet his demands; otherwise, he may take it personally, which was never great for his adversaries on the court. Luckily, Ben Affleck had a conversation with MJ before commencing the production of his upcoming movie, AIR, to discuss any demands the basketball legend may have. As expected, the GOAT had a few key elements he wanted to be included before giving his blessing.

Ben Affleck as Nike co-founder Phil Knight

Ben Affleck as Nike co-founder Phil Knight | Image: Amazon Studios

As all basketball fans and sneakerheads will know, AIR follows the journey of Nike’s pursuit to sign a young Michael Jordan. Directed by Affleck, the film features his longtime Hollywood buddy Matt Damon as brand employee Sonny Vaccaro, who was responsible for getting the rookie shooting guard to sign the contract that would birth the creation of the iconic Air Jordan shoe line that we know and love today. Affleck, who will also portray Nike co-founder Phil Knight, recently revealed vital details of his discussion with MJ before diving into the project (per Variety).

“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.”

Affleck continued: “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 is 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,” added Affleck. “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.”

Viola Davis 'AIR'

Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan | Image: Amazon Studios

In another interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Affleck revealed how he approached the award-winning actress, saying to her, ‘Michael Jordan wants you to play his mom,'” Affleck told the publication. “It certainly wasn’t ‘Ben Affleck wants you to be in his movie.’ She’s not comfortable with sycophancy or obsequiousness. You can tell it chafes her. I just treated her with respect, which is to say, ‘When you’re ready, let me know. We’ll be here.'”

Another sticking point for MJ, according to Affleck, was that “Howard White needed to be in the movie”. Played by Chris Tucker in the film, White is the vice president of the Jordan Brand. According to a report from Nick Depaula, he was “so integral to MJ’s Nike days that H (White) is credited for being part of the team that helped to keep him with the brand through some uncertain times. Let’s not forget that Michael entertained the idea of leaving for adidas in 1988. If it weren’t for that bit of careful negotiation on H’s part, there probably wouldn’t be a Jordan Brand as we know it today.”

AIR is scheduled to hit theatres on April 5, 2023. Check out the trailer below.