Ben Affleck Talks ‘Air’, Working With The Legendary Michael Jordan & Pitches A ‘Dogma 2’ Play – SXSW 2023 Interview
Air, which has been hailed as one of the best movies of the year (thus far), is now playing in theaters. At this year’s SXSW, the Ben Affleck-directed film closed the festival.
With its compelling narrative, Air offers an insightful portrayal of the legendary partnership between Michael Jordan and Nike’s basketball division, a collaboration that not only revolutionized the sports industry but also shaped contemporary culture with the iconic Air Jordan brand. Helmed by the award-winning Affleck, who is known for his masterful work on critically acclaimed films like Argo and The Town, the film promises to captivate audiences with its breathtaking visuals and powerful storytelling.
Geeks of Color had the privilege of covering the red carpet event at SXSW and spoke with the cast about their involvement in the project.
Check out the interview with Ben Affleck below:
Air is one of the first projects from Artists Equity, the production company launched by Affleck and Matt Damon last year, showcasing their commitment to bringing exceptional storytelling to the forefront of the entertainment industry. Affleck stated how this script aligned with the studio band said, “We wanted to start a company that truly believes that if you invest more in people who are really talented in front of and behind the camera, involve them in the project, and give them a voice, you’ll get better movies, better art, and the process will be quicker and easier, without necessarily costing more money.”
Explaining further, Affleck said, “Then, this script came along, and the idea that someone stood up and demanded to be paid what they were worth was a groundbreaking moment. If someone becomes the biggest icon in the world and creates value, they deserve to be compensated accordingly. That idea was very much in line with what we were trying to do.”
Once they got started on pre production for the film, Affleck knew he couldn’t do this without the blessing of Jordan himself. Affleck stated “Right away, I thought there was no point in doing it if Michaels didn’t support it. He’s my hero, so the last thing I wanted was to disappoint him. I sat down with him for a few minutes and said, ‘I don’t want to do this if you don’t want me to. And I want to know, what do you care about? What matters to you? Because I’m not going to get every single detail right.'”
While the film revolves around the Michael Jordan collaboration with Nike, the legendary basketball player does not appear in the movie nor does an actor portray him. Affleck explained the reasoning he gave to Jordan for this choice and said, “You know, you can’t be in the movie because, first of all, you’re too old to play yourself. Secondly, I can’t afford you. Thirdly, if I get another actor to try to impersonate you, nobody’s going to believe it.”
Affleck elaborated on why no one else could play Michael Jordan and said, “The thing about Michael Jordan is, there’s only one of him, and you just know who he is when you see a shadow. But instead, I love the idea that everybody’s talking about him, and you never see him because that’s what that kind of genius is: mysterious and elusive. Yet, it means something to us.”
Affleck went on to share how Jordan suggested that certain people, who were important to him, be reflected in the film. Affleck noted, “He didn’t come here saying, ‘I did this, I did that.’ He said, ‘These are people who are important. They need to be reflected.’ And then I said, ‘You got it.'”
Affleck shared how Viola Davis got involved in the film by saying that Michael Jordan had told him, “Viola Davis has to play my mother.” Affleck was initially hesitant and said, “I said, ‘Mike, that’s like saying you can start a basketball team as long as you get Michael Jordan. You’re setting a really high bar by wanting the best actor in the world.'” However, he soon realized that this was a dream opportunity for him to work with Davis, whom he had always admired. Affleck added, “I knew that Michael wanting her was going to go a lot further than me wanting her.”
Initially, Jordan’s mother had a smaller role in the film, but Affleck shared how that changed when he spoke with Jordan. Affleck described Jordan as “Intimidating, powerful. You know, like a deity on Earth.” But when he talked about his mother, Affleck saw a different side of him: “Respect and gratitude, and love and humility, and adoration. And then I realized, ‘Oh, that’s the story.'”
Affleck continued, “I love the idea that you come in thinking you’re going to see a story about Michael Jordan, but it’s actually about the person who was the most important to Michael Jordan, without whom there would be no Michael Jordan. As such, it’s kind of an homage to anyone who has played that role in someone’s life.”
Finally, Affleck expressed his joy in getting to work with Davis and said, “Then we were able to work with her, and it was a blessing. And I just thought, if I got run over by a car tomorrow, it’s okay, because it doesn’t get better than this.”
To conclude the interview, we asked Ben Affleck if there was a possibility of a Dogma 2 movie, despite the rights being owned by another company. Affleck said, “I would love to. The problem with movies, and it’s part of why we want to start this company, is that we want to give a piece of the ownership of the intellectual property and the copyright to the people who are participating in it. It’s a very hard thing to accomplish because that’s where all the money is.” Affleck explained that many movies get held up by someone who wants more money or has a different agenda, making it difficult to move forward with a project.
Affleck said, “I would love to do it, and maybe there’s a way to do something like a play without getting the rights. We could do an impromptu flashmob Dogma 2!”
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