Ben Affleck Did Not Seek Nike’s Approval for ‘Air’ — Only Michael Jordan’s

"It’s not a history of Nike," Affleck said of his new film. "There’s interviews and books about that."
AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 18: Ben Affleck attends the "AIR" world premiere during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)
Ben Affleck
Getty Images for SXSW

Early reviews for Ben Affleck’s “Air” suggest that the “Argo” director has another hit on his hands. After spending years devoting the bulk of his time to working on DC movies, fans and critics alike seem thrilled to see Affleck focusing on adult-oriented films again. But while “Air” is based on the true story of Nike executives trying to sign Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal, it’s not exactly an authorized biopic.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Affleck explained that the prevalence of books and documentaries about Nike meant that he didn’t feel obligated to involve the company in his film.

“I did not have a conversation with Nike because I didn’t feel the same sense of personal responsibility [as I did to Michael Jordan] because it’s not a history of Nike,” Affleck said. “There’s interviews and books about that.”

That said, Affleck went out of his way to consult with Jordan about the film’s accuracy.

“Jordan is — he’s a hero to me,” Affleck said. “And I know how important and meaningful a figure he is, in particular in the African American community. If you’re going to fuck around with talking about Michael Jordan, do it respectfully. Nobody’s asking you to do a hagiography, but get it fucking right. I’ve never known anybody with that kind of charisma and power who walks into a room and it just reverberates. And is it him or is it the way people treat him? Is it your memories of him? I don’t know, but it’s powerful. I said, ‘Please, can I come out?’ And he was great. ‘Yeah, no problem. Come to the golf course.’”

While Affleck emphasized that his film was not designed as a definitive Michael Jordan biopic with the NBA legend’s full participation, he still says that his conversation with Jordan helped him find the direction of the movie.

“I have to be very clear, this is not the authorized Michael Jordan story,” he said. “This was me saying, ‘Mike, I’m not going to make the movie if you’re not cool with something about it. I just won’t do it. I want to know what’s important to you.’ He was very clear. He was the one who told me about [Nike executive] Howard White, who wasn’t in the original script, who’s played by Chris Tucker. And I said, ‘Any anecdotes about your dad?’ And without going into any more detail, he actually talked about his mom, who wasn’t really in the script. That’s when I understood what the movie was. Talking to him about his mom was incredibly moving, and I realized, ‘Oh, this isn’t about Nike.’”

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

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