Before Ben Affleck directed “Air: Courting A Legend,” the actor sat down with Michael Jordan himself to discuss his list of demands for the highly-anticipated film, which opens in theaters across the globe on April 5 in advance of its debut on Amazon’s Prime Video.
Set in 1984, “Air: Courting A Legend” chronicles Nike’s quest to sign Jordan and the company’s pitch to land the basketball legend in what would become the most influential endorsement deal.
Affleck, who also portrays Nike co-founder Phil Knight in the movie, told the story of meeting with Jordan ahead of filming while attending the world premiere of “Air” at SXSW 2023 in Austin on March 18.
“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 explained.
One of Jordan’s demands was that the film should include Howard White, the vice president of the Jordan brand and a Nike executive, who was not featured in the original script. When Jordan discovered White had not been written into the original script, he told Affleck that White “needed to be in the movie.” Chris Tucker was later casted in the role of the White.
Jordan’s list of demands didn’t stop there. Affleck also revealed that Jordan specifically requested Viola Davis to play his mother, Deloris Jordan.
“He talked about his mother. He just said, ‘None of this would have ever happened without my mother doing everything.’ I said, Who would you like to play your mom?’ And he said, ‘It has to be Viola Davis.’ 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,” Affleck continued.
Davis will share the screen in “Air” with her husband Julius Tennon, who stars as Jordan’s father James Jordan.
In an exclusive interview with People magazine, Davis explained that she was surprised to hear the news and was extremely happy when she found out.
“I know Michael Jordan but didn’t know that Deloris brokered this deal to get him a huge stake in the shoe and in turn, protected her son’s legacy. I wanted to know more about this woman who had the strength and courage to fight for her son’s worth. For Deloris to have this insight and progressive vision, to stand her ground in the negotiation room – which I know can be the hardest part of the job – makes her an incredible woman. That made me lean into this project,” Davis explained.
“Air” also stars Matt Damon as Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro who convinced Jordan played by Damian Young to sign the deal that would eventually lead to the creation of the iconic Air Jordan shoe line. Rounding out the cast is Chris Tucker as Howard White, Jason Bateman as Strasser, Matthew Maher as Moore, Chris Messina as David Falk, Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, Gustaf Skarsgård as Horst Dassler,
The film, written by Alex Convery, is the first project from Affleck and Damon’s Artists Equity, in collaboration with Amazon Studios, Skydance Sports and Mandalay Pictures.
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