Viola Davis on Michael Jordan Wanting Her to Play His Mom: ‘You’re Flattered at First, the Next Second Is Pressure’

·2 min read

“Air” doesn’t open in theaters until next week, but it already seems like film fans have been talking about it forever. Ben Affleck’s sports drama about Nike’s pursuit of Michael Jordan is already one of the buzziest films of the spring thanks to strong early reviews and some viral anecdotes about the making of the film. Much has been made of Affleck’s story about visiting Michael Jordan to discuss the script, where the basketball legend essentially demanded that Affleck cast Viola Davis as his mother, Deloris Jordan.

“There’s one line for the mother character in the movie at this point — and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, he wants me to offer this to Viola Davis. How am I going to offer Viola Davis a movie with one line? That’s not going to happen,'” Affleck recently said while speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. “But he was like, ‘That’s my mom.’ He was dead serious. ‘Viola Davis, that’s my mom.’ And that was it. Discussion was over. However it happened, it wasn’t his problem, but it was going to fucking happen. And I was like, ‘OK, Mike.’”

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The story is a testament to Davis’ pedigree as an actress (and, frankly, Jordan’s good taste in movies). But many fans began to wonder how Davis reacted to having arguably the greatest athlete of all time request that she play his mother. In a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight, Davis recalled the surreal experience that led to her casting.

“You know, you’re flattered at first and then the next second is pressure,” Davis said. “[Pressure] to play the woman who basically is the orchestrator of this great athlete’s life, you know?”

Once the initial shock wore off, Davis said that her admiration for Jordan’s mother only grew as she dug into the role.

“Obviously she was so influential and then I’m looking at videos of her and if you’ve ever seen videos of Deloris Jordan, she’s extraordinary, she really is,” Davis said. “Because she’s one of those, you know, she’s one of those people where you’re like, ‘Where did this talent come from? Where did this vision come from?'”

“Air” opens in theaters on Wednesday, April 5.

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