Ben Affleck’s upcoming Air, based on NBA legend Michael Jordan’s historic deal sign with Nike, which went on to give birth to the iconic Jordan line is up for release in April. Recently, after its advanced screening in New York, Affleck to the stage to address his feelings towards his ambitious movie. He mentioned how when he first met with Jordan, he almost dropped his dream project altogether even with his childhood best friend Matt Damon involved in the movie.
This is saying something as fans are aware of the close friendship between the two actors, as reportedly they used to share not only an apartment but also a bank account together early on in their careers. Although the living circumstances of the Good Will Hunting co-stars have certainly changed, their bond has remained the same. As a result, Affleck’s proclamation that he almost dropped Air shows his reverence for Michael Jordan.
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Ben Affleck recalls Michael Jordan’s demands for Air
The Academy Award winner recalls how when he first went to meet Michael Jordan, “the most cool, intimidating guy” told him, “I’ll sit down with you.” After they had lunch, Affleck started the meeting by saying, “first of all, I won’t do this movie if you don’t want me to do it, just to start with, because it’s just a show of reverence and respect for you.” He further added that he was also very clear that he might need to change a few things for the purpose of the movie, but he didn’t want to do anything that would feel fundamentally wrong to the two-time Olympic gold champion.
Jordan then gave him a list of particularities he adamantly needed in the movie. The short but significant list started with George Raveling, the former college basketball player who was the assistant coach of Team USA during Jordan’s 1984 Olympics gold win. Jordan mentioned that Raveling played a key part in his contract with Nike, saying, “I wouldn’t be at Nike without him.”
On a similar note, he also specifically mentioned Howard White, the former Maryland Terrapins point guard, who after knee injuries started his career at Nike. They formed a close relationship while the NBA legend was considering deals from Adidas, Converse, and Nike alike and helped him to sign the deal that would forever alter the course of the industry and eventually became Jordan brand’s vice president. Ben Affleck mentioned that he wanted Chris Tucker to play the role as he has always wanted to work with him, and Jordan replied with “I know Chris,” which settled that.
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Ben Affleck moved by Michael Jordan’s story about his mother
Michael Jordan, though, only had two specific requests for his biopic and those were regarding his parents. Affleck mentioned that Jordan told him that his father, James, “had the best personality out of everyone I ever knew,” and thankfully Affleck had already found the right guy, Julius Tennon, for his role by that time. This also made things kind of convenient for him, as he found out while talking to Jordan at that time his only true demand for Air, was the legendary Viola Davis playing the part of his mother, Deloris Jordan, to whom, Tennon is married.
Affleck recalled how he ironically replied to Jordan, saying, “The best actor in the world?! No problem!” However, upon learning the central role his mother played in starting the Jordan empire, Ben Affleck mentioned, that he finally realized, “what the movie is — what it’s about.” After that and their rigorous work in detailing the characters, Affleck offered the role to Davis, who upon learning Michael Jordan specifically asked for her for the role of his mother, immediately agreed.
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With Ben Affleck as Nike CEO and founder Phil Knight, Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, Tenon and Davis as Jordan’s parents, Tucker as Howard White, Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser, and Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, the movie is set to become a sight to see. It is based closely on Michael Jordan’s own memories of events and the all-star cast that he deserves. After all, “by acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time,” as his bio on the official NBA website reads.
Air arrives at the theaters on April 5th, 2023.