Ben Affleck premiered the world premiere of his new movie air at the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival in Austin on Saturday, and he quickly made it clear how much he wanted his Amazon Studios venture to succeed.
“Tonight is the most important night of my career,” Affleck declared from the stage, amid salacious references to previously unpopular projects. “This is an upbeat, optimistic movie about people. So I can’t hide behind being a writer — [as if to say] “You don’t need to understand my film.” I truly I hope you like it… So no pressure, but it all falls to you.”
Affleck directed and starred in the film airBiographical drama chronicling Nike’s revolutionary creation of the Air Jordan shoe line. Judging by the audience’s first reaction, Affleck needn’t have worried about his reception — the film and its scene-stealing cast received a standing ovation. air It stars Matt Damon as the Nike CEO who signs Michael Jordan to his first sneaker deal. Affleck plays Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, and the film also stars Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, and Chris Messina.
Damon described his role – and reunion with his “best friend” and longtime collaborator Affleck – as “the greatest job I’ve ever done”.
“I went every day and had five to seven [script] Pages to do opposite reps like that, it was ridiculous,” Damon said. “I’ve never had more fun. Ben and I – from the moment we read it [Alex Convery’s] The script to the last cut we did in the edit – it was just an absolute pleasure. “
Davis — whom Affleck called “the best actor I’ve ever seen” — spoke about what Delores, Jordan’s protective, business-savvy mother, means to her. “Delores and my mom were born into a generation of people whose dreams were their children. It’s the height of Jim Crow. It’s the height of black people being told their dreams don’t matter. Even now, to have that big vision for her son, to believe it so wholeheartedly, is kind of a miracle. It was an honor.” me to play Delores.”
Bateman seemed dumbfounded by the audience’s reaction to the film, “I couldn’t believe the amount of shouting and screaming [during the screening],” he said. “What Ben and Matt could do with this story… It’s an American business story and they put a rock show on it.” They were somehow able to enhance what Michael Jordan meant to all of us – which was truly the pinnacle of greatness and excitement. I will never think of Michael Jordan or Air Jordans the same way again because of what Ben was able to do with that movie, create the kind of feeling we all had.”
In a somewhat daring creative choice, Jordan himself did not appear directly in the film, which Affleck explained was an attempt to avoid having an actor impersonate a larger-than-life living legend with whom audiences were already familiar. “There’s no way I’m going to ask the audience to believe that anyone else is Michael Jordan,” he said. “Which was out of my own self-interest, honestly, because I knew it was going to ruin the movie.” He added, “This is not a documentary. This is not meant to be the absolute perfect history of who did what and said what… All the mistakes in the movie are mine.”
Affleck said he showed the movie to the real Phil Knight, “and halfway through I realized it might have been a huge mistake” given how the film somewhat satirizes the Nike co-founder. “But people like to make fun of their boss,” he said, “that’s part of the workplace culture.” “I have been known to appear in a meme once in a while.”
However, he said he avoided contact with Nike and its executives during the film’s development and production. “I didn’t want to have any contact, contact or accept anything from Nike because I didn’t want to be accused of doing publicity or commercial or changing anything in order to curry favor with them.” However, it’s hard to imagine that Nike wasn’t thrilled by the very positive showing of the film for its company.
in the Hollywood ReporterA current cover story profile of Affleck, the actor and director talks about the film and how he handled directing a film in which corporate America intersects with black culture. “I’m not going to make a movie whose central idea is white Americans appropriating black culture for profit,” he said. “This isn’t my movie that I’m making. I’m telling a story that’s about a bunch of things, and that’s one aspect of it. I’m not going to delete it because deleting it would exacerbate the disrespect. What I’m going to do is talk to people who understand it better than I do and can help me frame it, and that was [costume designer] Charles [Antoinette Jones]It was viola. Chris [Tucker]He gave me monologues, he gave me scenes, and he was very organic. And that’s why I was like, “I want to cast Chris as a writer as well. I want to be very clear that he’s a contributing voice to this movie.”
air It will mark the first Amazon movie to hit theaters without a simultaneous release on Prime Video. The movie hits theaters on April 5.
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