Ben Affleck’s ‘Air’ Rocks SXSW, Receives Standing Ovation – Rolling Stone

“Viola, I love you. Your outfit is eat.”

That was just one of many laudatory comments the cast and crew had Air received after its premiere at the SXSW Film & TV Festival in Austin, Texas, prompting the film’s director and co-star Ben Affleck to say, “I never get that comment… but well deserved and I can see why!” (For for the record, Davis looked flawless in an all-white suit.)

A late feature – and the film to end the night – at the party, the Amazon Studios feature explores the creation of the first Air Jordan sneaker and how executives at Nike, including marketing gurus Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) and Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman ) ), VP Howard White (Chris Tucker), as well as its eccentric CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck, who also directed), convinced rookie basketball phenom Michael Jordan and his parents, Deloris (Viola Davis) and James Jordan Sr. (Julius Tennon) ), to sign with a company that had its ass handed to it by Adidas and Converse in the basketball sneaker department.

An old-fashioned underdog tale and crowd-pleaser (although the “underdogs” in this case are a group of white corporate executives at a multinational corporation specializing in sports footwear and apparel), the film not only received a number of loud cheers during its packed screening at the Paramount Theater, including nearly every time Viola Davis appeared on screen, but was also on the receiving end of perhaps the longest standing ovation at the party.

As the applause died down, Affleck and his cast answered some questions about the origin story of arguably the greatest sneaker ever produced, inspired by arguably the greatest professional athlete in history.

“It’s the start of the whole idea of ​​sneaker culture,” Affleck explained. “For the first time there was even a notion that a shoe would represent someone’s identity and have meaning, and then it would be a work of art.”

Affleck said he showed Phil Knight the film, and given how his portrayal of Knight is as a crazy guy who enjoys wearing Nike tracksuits around the office, putting his bare feet up on his desk and spouting Buddhism-lite philosophical ruminations, he felt “halfway through I realized (it) could have been a huge mistake and I thought about leaving.” But Affleck said he won Knight over by relating his portrayal of him to the way the star has been treated online.

I told him, ‘I’ve been there slightly Myself. I’ve been known to appear in the occasional meme,” Affleck cracked to a roar of laughter. “People – they like to make fun of the boss. It’s part of the workplace culture.’ And he was so elegant about it.”

Viola Davis stars as Deloris Jordan in ‘Air.’

Amazon Studios

Oscar-winning Davis – the only actress the real-life Michael Jordan wanted to play her – said there was a strong connection between her portrayal of Jordan’s mother Deloris and her own mother, who was from the same generation of black women in the American South (Davis grew up in South Carolina, while Michael and his family are from North Carolina).

“My mother was born in 1943. Deloris was born in 1940. She was born into a generation of people whose dreams were their children,” Davis said. “It’s the height of Jim Crow. It’s the height of black people being told that their dreams didn’t matter. So it’s so miraculous for her to have that big vision for her son and believe in it so wholeheartedly. So that it was an honor to play Deloris.”

That vision, by the way, was for Jordan to receive equity in his Air Jordan sneakers (and any future Air Jordan sneakers), which the film’s credits say gives Jordan about $400 million a year, while the Air Jordan brand brings in $4 billion. a year for Nike. Affleck and Damon followed suit, making the film with their new production company Artists Equity, which gives actors and crew members greater profit participation in their projects.

Matthew Maher, Matt Damon and Jason Bateman in ‘Air.’

Amazon Studios

“It was the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve never had more fun,” offered Damon. “Ben and I, from the moment we read (Alex Convery’s) script to the last cut we made in the edit, were absolute joy. This has been the best experience of my life. By the way, you go to work with Viola Davis in the morning on a five-page scene and by 10:30 you’re done, it’s the best thing you’ve done in your career, and you’re an hour out at lunch, so you think, “Well, I guess we should keep working!”

Most of the Q&A after the screening was spent praising Air‘s cast — which also included a deliciously over-the-top Chris Messina as David Falk, Jordan’s agent; Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, an assistant coach for the 1984 USA Basketball Team who becomes a mentor to young Michael; and Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, the late Nike creative director who helped design the Air Jordan I sneaker and the Jumpman logo. And indeed, there is not a weak performance in the film among them.


“I love this movie,” Affleck exclaimed, a smile beaming across his face, adding, “It’s like training the Dream Team, and how hard was that?!”

Air will be released in theaters on April 5. It is the first Amazon Studios production not to drop simultaneously on their Prime Video streaming platform.

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