What could be more awesome than Ben Affleck directing a movie? How about Ben Affleck directing a movie about the greatest basketball player of all time: Michael Jordan.
The man behind Argo and The Town has made a film called Air, and it just premiered at SXSW. It stars Matt Damon, Damian Young and some other people who are probably good actors too.
But before Affleck could make this movie, he had to get one thing: Jordan’s perspective on what matters to him.
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.
Now, you might think that Jordan would just let Affleck do whatever he wanted with his life story. But no, he had some input. He told Affleck that there were some parts of his story that he couldn’t leave out. And you know what? He was right. Because those parts are awesome.
One of them was that Howard White needed to be in the movie.
Affleck learned that one of the key figures in Jordan’s life was a man named White, who was like a big brother to him. And he had the perfect actor in mind to play him: Chris Tucker. You know, the guy from Rush Hour and Friday. Affleck said he was a huge fan of his comedy and was thrilled to work with him. But he didn’t just wing it with the script. He consulted with Jordan again. He wanted to get his story right.
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 is 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.’ I said, ‘Who would you like to play your mom?’ He said, ‘Well, it has to be Viola Davis.
Affleck was definitely not opposed to casting Davis.
That’s like saying, ‘Can I play basketball on your court?’ ‘Yeah, if you get Michael Jordan. 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. 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.
Viola Davis plays Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan. Before the grand premiere of Air, Affleck brought Davis up on stage to share the spotlight.