Michael Jordan had a request for the Michael Jordan movie that doesn’t feature Michael Jordan. Got all that?
In Air, Matt Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike employee who convinced His Airness to sign with the brand, leading towards the Air Jordan shoe line. It also stars (and is directed by) Ben Affleck, who revealed the requirements that Jordan had for the film.
“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 said at the premiere for Air at South by Southwest this weekend, according to Variety. One was that Howard White, the Vice President of Sports Marketing for Jordan Brand, needed to be in the movie. Another involved an Oscar winner as Jordan’s mom.
“I got the script and then had the chance again to talk to Michael. 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,” 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.”
Affleck recalled feeling 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.” He then introduced Davis to the SXSW crowd, calling her “the best actor in the world.” She’s the Michael Jordan of actors — or maybe Michael Jordan is the Viola Davis of basketball players.
Air comes to theaters and Amazon Prime Video on April 5.