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Ben Affleck is getting behind the camera (and in front of it!) for his new feature film, Air. It’s set in the 1980s and tells the story of the revolutionary partnership between then-rookie basketball player Michael Jordan and Nike, and the inception of the Air Jordan line.
With a star-studded cast, Affleck stars as Nike co-founder Phil Knight while his longtime friend and close collaborator Matt Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike employee who persuaded Jordan (portrayed by Damian Delano Young) to sign the contract that allowed for the creation of the iconic Air Jordan shoe line.
The A-list ensemble is rounded out by Viola Davis, her real-life husband Julius Tennon, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker and Marlon Wayans.
It premiered at the South by Southwest conference and festival last week, and Affleck spoke about meeting with Jordan to get his blessing on the project. But first, Jordan had a few conditions.
Per Variety, Affleck said, “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?’” He explained, “One of them was that Howard White needed to be in the movie,” referring to the vice president of the Jordan brand. Going over the script with the legendary athlete, 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.”
According to the Argo director, “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. 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.”
A tale chronicling the triumph of the underdog, Air takes place in 1984. The staff at Nike headquarters meet to discuss growth, sales, and brand recognition — specifically of the company’s basketball division. Willing to bet his career on one man, who had never before set foot on an NBA court, Vaccaro travels to North Carolina to meet with Jordan and his parents (Davis and Tennon). From there, the team sets out to create the greatest basketball sneaker to ever be made.
Air is set for an April 5 release. As of right now, it has a rare 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Only time will tell if it stays that high.
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