Ben Affleck 'didn't ever plan on' depicting Michael Jordan in his film about the NBA legend's historic shoe deal with Nike
Ben Affleck directed and stars in "Air," an upcoming film about Michael Jordan's Nike shoe deal.
The two-time Oscar winner made the curious decision not to depict the NBA legend in the movie.
Affleck explained that His Airness is "too famous" for an actor to successfully embody on screen.
NEW YORK — Ben Affleck's new film, "Air," tells the riveting story of how Michael Jordan signed his historic, industry-altering shoe deal with Nike in 1984.
But aside from passing references and a body double, the NBA legend isn't depicted in the nearly two-hour movie.
Affleck, who directed the film and stars as Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight, clarified that "it was not Michael's decision" to not be portrayed in the film. Instead, the two-time Academy Award winner explained after an advanced screening of the film in New York City that it was his own choice — and that he "didn't ever plan on" casting someone to play Jordan.
"Michael is so magnificent, so famous — the whole reason why he represents and means what he does in terms of greatness and excellence is because he's so enigmatic and majestic and identifiable immediately by his carriage and demeanor, and what we've seen him do physically," Affleck said. "The one sure way to ruin the movie and have the audience understand that the whole thing is a fraud is to point the camera at anybody that's not Michael Jordan and say, 'Hey, that's Michael Jordan.' Because all of a sudden they're like, 'This is the knockoff Michael Jordan.'
"The only person who could play Michael Jordan, as I said to him, is too old now to play Michael Jordan," he added.
Essentially, His Airness is just "too famous" to be believably played by anyone, even the greatest actor on the planet. But for Affleck, the nightmare of trying to represent someone as renowned as Jordan actually complemented his creative vision, too.
The "Good Will Hunting" star equates the six-time NBA champion to "a God" who is "above it" all. His personhood, in Affleck's view, reflects "how our relationship is with these icons and idols."
"They're people who were in our fantasies," Affleck said. "I imagine all these young people become successful in a lot of different industries, and they're like these rockets and the amount of people that gravitate and circle and go around them and obsess about them, and it just makes you think how much he needed that guidance and relied on it and reinforces that central theme."
That central theme, of course, is "knowing your worth and self respect and taking risks," all of which Jordan learns through his mother, Deloris. If Jordan had it his way at the time, he would've relinquished his shoe rights for a shiny red Mercedes.
Instead, his mother demanded a historic deal for her son — one that secured a revenue share in exchange for the use of the Jordan name. Deloris' savvy made her son an incredibly rich man, and it was one of the few demands Jordan himself made for the movie that Affleck justly depict her brilliance in negotiating before he signed on the dotted line.
In learning from Jordan just "how meaningful and important" his mother was to the start of her son's brand empire, Affleck realized "what the movie is — what it's about." What it is not, the director understood, is "the Michael Jordan story." And he was "very clear" about that fact.
"He owns the rights to his story," Affleck said. "And if he wants to make the story of Michael Jordan one day, I hope he gets a very big rev share of that, because he deserves it."
"Air" comes out exclusively in theaters April 5. Check out the trailer below:
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