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“It was important that I honor that”: Ben Affleck Reveals Michael Jordan’s One Demand That Nearly Shut Down ‘Air’, Tried Like Hell to Fulfil NBA Legend’s Wish After Entirely Skipping Him in the Movie

“It was important that I honor that”: Ben Affleck Reveals Michael Jordan’s One Demand That Nearly Shut Down ‘Air’, Tried Like Hell to Fulfil NBA Legend’s Wish After Entirely Skipping Him in the Movie

There are plenty of films about Michael Jordan’s life, but Ben Affleck hopes to talk about a simple shoe deal the Basketball legend did that changed the sporting world. The Academy Award winner is releasing a film whose one-word title summarizes everything it’s about- Air. So obviously the biggest question is who is portraying the sports hero in the movie? The answer is no one. However, Jordan did request only one thing that Affleck thought he was crazy for asking.

Michael Jordan Wanted Viola Davis To Play His Mother

Michael Jordan with Air Jordans
Michael Jordan with Air Jordans

In Air, Ben Affleck portrays Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder and chairman, while Matt Damon plays the man who originally recruited Jordan, Sonny Vaccaro. No actor is playing Jordan and we won’t see him onscreen too. But the Basketball royalty had only one request about one other main character. He wanted his mother to be played by EGOT status achiever Viola Davis.

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But why Davis specifically? Because she resembles Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan a lot and also is a favorite of the sporting celeb. But Affleck wasn’t so sure he could bring someone of Davis’ stature onboard. However, ultimately he got her in the film and honored Jordan’s words. The acclaimed director said:

“I was like, ‘Mike, you just can’t get Viola Davis.’ He was like ‘nope.’ So I had to get her. Thank goodness she said yes. I was very happy I was able to do that. He didn’t have a whole laundry list. He left it at that. It was important that I honor that.”

Deloris is an important figure in the history of the deal because she was the one who convinced Michael Jordan to make the Air Jordan deal with Nike. Initially, the basketball star was comfortable with Adidas since it was more popular than Nike back in the 1980s.

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Why Isn’t Anyone Playing Michael Jordan In The Air Movie?

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

In a film about one of the biggest sports merchandising deals, shouldn’t an actor have been hired to play the man who actually made that deal? As per Affleck, no. The director didn’t want anyone to play Jordan because he believed the movie would fall apart once he showed the person playing the Basketball hero. As per Affleck:

“I thought the minute I turn the camera on somebody and ask the audience to believe that person was Michael Jordan, the whole movie falls part. When somebody is that powerful, where just their silhouette s a globally recognized phenomenon, you lose people.”

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Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan

However, Affleck didn’t mean to disrespect Jordan through this action. In fact, he approached the sporting celeb and let him know that he wouldn’t do the film if the star wasn’t onboard. Affleck said:

“I wouldn’t have touched this movie if I did not think, without approaching and seeking out Michael Jordan and letting him know that there’s no story without him. I’m not interested in doing a movie that Michael feels is inappropriate or doesn’t reflect how he feels about the story. By the same token, when I reached out to him…he didn’t seek to have any input that he didn’t have first person information about. He had integrity that way.”

Affleck wanted to do justice to Jordan and the effect he has had on people. He hopes that the film will connect with everyone and not just sports fans. How the film is received will be seen when it comes out in theaters.

Air releases on 5 April 2023.

Source: NBA

Written by Ishita Chatterjee

A literature graduate who loves sharing her views on everything pop-culture and entertainment. Ishita especially loves dreaming about superheroes and comic books when she isn't day dreaming about them everyday either way.