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“Affleck Explains Not Showing Michael Jordan Actor’s Face in ‘Air'”

todayApril 5, 2023

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Ben Affleck and his co-stars, including Matt Damon, Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, and Marlon Wayans, discuss their upcoming movie.

When Ben Affleck approached Michael Jordan about Air, the new biographical comedy-drama that Affleck directed and stars in, which depicts Nike’s massive efforts to secure the basketball player’s endorsement for a groundbreaking sneaker deal in 1984, Jordan had just a few requests.

The most publicized of those: The Chicago Bulls legend wanted Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis to play his mother, Deloris.

Beyond that, “I don’t wanna make too much out of it,” Affleck tells Yahoo Entertainment about his conversations with Jordan. “I was just lucky enough to get a little bit of time to talk to him and say, ‘Hey, look, if you don’t want me to do this, I won’t, outta respect.’ And then he guided me towards people that were important to him, because I had to change and compress [characters], and obviously it’s not a 10-hour documentary. He said, ‘Look, there’s some people [like George Raveling and Howard White] that are really important in this story, and they shouldn’t be left out.’

“And Viola came in and really built the Deloris role. And so he opened up doors for me to find these brilliant actors … who I’ve always wanted to work with and get them to support me and make this movie much, much bigger than something that I could do on my own.”

That, in part, explains why Air has such a sprawling (and star-studded) ensemble. At the center of the story is Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon, who put on “a few extra pounds” and wore a body suit for the big-gutted part), the Nike talent scout who bets his career on his desperate attempt to lure Jordan to Nike at a time when Adidas and Converse ruled professional basketball endorsements. There’s Affleck as the company’s eccentric Zen-Buddhist CEO Phil Knight, Jason Bateman as stressed director of marketing Rob Strasser, Chris Messina as Jordan’s hot-headed agent David Falk, and Davis and Julius Tennon as Michael’s guiding-light parents Dolores and James.

It’s notable that the two names Affleck referenced Jordan naming are both Black men.

Howard White (Chris Tucker) was one of the few high-ranking African Americans in the corporate shoe game, and helped make Jordan feel at home on his visit to Nike’s Oregon headquarters (“Chris came along and created that role, really built it, wrote it, created it,” Affleck says of Tucker); George Raveling (Marlon Wayans) was essential in schooling his friend Vaccaro on how to appeal to Jordan. (It’s probably a good thing Affleck included them given Air has already drawn early criticism for centering white men in a story about the creation of Air Jordans.)

AIR, from left: Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser, 2023. ph: Ana Carballosa / © Amazon Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection
Air director Ben Affleck, on set. (Photo: Ana Carballosa / © Amazon Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection)

And while there was an actor (Damian Delano Young) cast as young Jordan, Affleck made a conscious creative decision never to show the character’s face.

“Michael’s just too famous and too meaningful and too important and too much of an icon for me to believe, particularly given that there is only a couple of moments in the film, that any actor could convince you that they, in fact, were Michael Jordan,” Affleck explains. “[Just] his silhouette is recognizable around the world.

“And so I thought that it was actually more interesting that he exists above and outside, kind of in the clouds above everybody [and] everyone around him. And also I’m mindful of the fact that this is not the Michael Jordan story. We didn’t go get his rights. He didn’t get paid, like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna tell your story, your childhood, your thing.’ This is not that. And so I didn’t think it was really appropriate, frankly, to use that. This is a story about other people. It’s a sort of a fable using that story… You know, you’re f***ing around with an extremely important figure in American history, and I wanted to just handle that as respectfully and carefully as I could.”


Written by: New Generation Radio

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