Ben Affleck explains how Air isn’t the “authorized Michael Jordan story”

Cameron Frew
Ben Affleck in AirWarner Bros.

While made with his blessing, Air isn’t the “authorized Michael Jordan story”, according to director Ben Affleck.

Air is Affleck’s upcoming, all-star biopic chronicling one of the most significant moments of Jordan’s career. Not his first NBA MVP award, not his brief stint in Minor League Baseball – the origin of his Air Jordan shoe line with Nike.

In line with how the trailer floats around Jordan without ever showing him, he won’t appear in the movie, nor will any actor play the legend himself.

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Instead, he’ll be a “mythic figure hovering above the movie and never seen” – but that doesn’t mean Affleck didn’t speak to him about the film beforehand.

Ben Affleck spoke to Michael Jordan before Air

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the film’s release, Affleck was asked how he approached Jordan to discuss the movie. Fortunately, he knew him already.

“I periodically play cards sometimes with Michael, and we’ve got mutual friends… he’s a hero to me. And I know how important and meaningful a figure he is, in particular in the African American community,” he said.

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“If you’re going to f*ck around with talking about Michael Jordan, do it respectfully. Nobody’s asking you to do a hagiography, but get it fucking right. I’ve never known anybody with that kind of charisma and power who walks into a room and it just reverberates. And is it him or is it the way people treat him? Is it your memories of him? I don’t know, but it’s powerful.

“I said, ‘Please, can I come out?’ And he was great. ‘Yeah, no problem. Come to the golf course.’ Went out, met with him.”

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Don’t expect the “authorized Michael Jordan story”

Affleck was keen to clarify that Air isn’t a full-blown Michael Jordan biopic. “I have to be very clear, this is not the authorized MJ story,” he said.

“He was not compensated in a way that would be appropriate if this were that. If you’re going to do a Michael Jordan story, they should back the f*cking truck up.

“This was me saying, ‘Mike, I’m not going to make the movie if you’re not cool with something about it. I just won’t do it. I want to know what’s important to you.’

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Matt Damon and Viola Davis in AirWarner Bros.

“He was very clear. He was the one who told me about [Nike executive] Howard White, who wasn’t in the original script, who’s played by Chris Tucker. And I said, ‘Any anecdotes about your dad?’ And without going into any more detail, he actually talked about his mom, who wasn’t really in the script.

“That’s when I understood what the movie was. Talking to him about his mom was incredibly moving, and I realized, ‘Oh, this isn’t about Nike.'”

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Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan, will be played by Viola Davis in the movie – and she was requested by Jordan himself. “And that was it. Discussion was over. However it happened, it wasn’t his problem, but it was going to f*cking happen. And I was like, ‘OK, Mike,'” Affleck said.

Air hits cinemas on April 5, 2023.

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About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, Oscars enthusiast, and a staunch Scot. He earned a First-Class Honours Degree in Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University, accredited by the NCTJ and BJTC. He began his career at UNILAD, starting as a Junior Journalist and becoming Entertainment Editor prior to joining Dexerto. You can contact him at cameron.frew@dexerto.com.