Ben Affleck has revealed that Michael Jordan had a number of demands when it came to making the forthcoming movie Air.
Affleck has directed and starred in the film, which is based upon the story of Nike’s courting of the former NBA superstar to create the now iconic Air Jordan trainer. Air is set to be released next month with Matt Damon in the role of shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro, who spearheaded Nike‘s pursuit of Jordan.
However, before cameras got rolling on the film, Affleck has revealed that approached the former basketball great to make sure he was happy with how the movie was set to play out. It turns out Jordan had a number of demands for Affleck, in return for his blessing – including a veto of who would play his beloved mother, Deloris.
Speaking at the film’s premiere at the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas, Affleck [as per Variety] 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?’ Interestingly, and tellingly, he had a few things that mattered.”
One of Jordan’s demands was that the film feature Howard White, 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”. Thus, Chris Tucker was cast in the role of White.
The demands didn’t end there, as Affleck continued: “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.
“He told me about his 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’.”
After hearing what Jordan said about his mother, Affleck said he then asked Jordan who he wanted to play his Deloris Jordan. Jordan had someone picked out from the get-go, and responded: “Viola Davis.”
“That’s like saying, ‘Can I play basketball on your court?’ ‘Yeah, if you get Michael Jordan’.” Affleck said. “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.”
Despite Davis being one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood, Affleck succeeded in casting Davis in the movie. Speaking about that particular achievement, he said: “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.”
‘Air’ is set to arrive in the US on April 5 and in the UK on April 7.