Is Air based on a true story? New Ben Affleck and Matt Damon movie explained

Chris Tilly
Ben Affleck wearing sunglasses in the movie Air.

Air is a new film from Good Will Hunting collaborators Ben Affleck and Matt Damon – but is the new comedy-drama based on a true story?

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon burst onto the movie scene with Good Will Hunting in 1997. The tale of a maths genius working as a janitor was a critical and commercial hit. While the film also earned them Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay.

The pair have popped up together in various movies since, including several Kevin Smith comedies, and acclaimed Ridley Scott drama The Last Duel. But this year they are co-starring a movie that Affleck is also directing.

Air debuted at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, last week to rave reviews. And with the film’s global release on the horizon, this is everything you need to know about the film’s story.

What is Air about?

Written by newcomer Alex Convery, the official synopsis for Air is as follows…

Air reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between a then rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand.

This moving story follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.

Is Air based on a true story?

Yes, Air is based on a true story, as Michael Jordan did sign with Nike, and the Air Jordan did change the shoe industry fundamentally, and forever.

But at the same time, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ben Affleck gave context to the tale his telling: “I have to be very clear, this is not the authorized Michael Jordan story. 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**king truck up.”

Affleck met with Jordan to discuss the project with him however, as he explained to THR: “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.’

“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.

“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’.”

Air hits screens worldwide on April 5, 2023, while you can read more of our movie coverage here.

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