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Viola Davis "AIR" Premiere at SXSW - Red Carpet

Viola Davis Source: Christopher Polk / Getty


During SXSW, Ben Affleck revealed his upcoming movie AIR got the blessing of Michael Jordan but only if the legendary Viola Davis played his mother.

Last weekend, Austin, Texas was packed with people from all over the world in every lane of entertainment for the annual South By Southwest festival.

During the fest, the cast of the forthcoming film AIR including Ben Affleck, Viola Davis and Matt Damon premiered it for a select group. Affleck also revealed how the film that details Michael Jordan’s relationship with Nike came together. And he detailed getting the blessing of Air Jordan himself, a massive feat considering how selective Jordan is about who and what he associates himself with.


According to Variety, MJ had very few demands for Affleck who directed the movie, but one of them involved securing the Michael Jordan of acting, EGOT winner Viola Davis.

“I had a chance to sit down with Michael Jordan because I just wasn’t going to make this movie without asking him, ‘What matters to you?’ Interestingly, and tellingly, he had a few things that mattered.”

“One of them was that Howard White needed to be in the movie,” Affleck revealed, referring to the vice president of the Jordan brand. Which finally gave Affleck his opportunity to cast and work with Chris Tucker.

“I got the script and then had the chance again to talk to Michael. Michael Jordan, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the most intimidating, impressive men you’ll ever see in your life,” Affleck said. “He told me about his father. And then he talked about his mother. It was the first time I saw this look cross his face. It was a look of reverence, awe, love, gratitude, and innocence. He said, ‘None of this would have ever happened without my mother.’ I said, ‘Who would you like to play your mom?’ He said, ‘Well, it has to be Viola Davis.”

“That’s like saying, ‘Can I play basketball on your court?’ ‘Yeah, if you get Michael Jordan.’ “Viola Davis is the best actor I’ve ever seen,” Affleck continued. “This is a hard business. It’s hard to know if you’re successful. It’s hard to know if you’ve accomplished something. But honest to God, I always felt that if I was a director one day, and I had Viola Davis in a movie, that would really be something. That would mean the world to me. And it does.”

“This is the best night of my professional life, and I want to welcome the best actor in the world,” he ended, introducing Viola Davis before the audience previewed AIR.

Interestingly enough, Viola Davis apparently wasn’t unaware that Jordan specifically requested her for the film.

"AIR" Premiere at SXSW - Red Carpet

Source: Christopher Polk / Getty

The Academy Award-winner, 57, told PEOPLE that she was “flattered” after learning for the first time earlier that night that Michael Jordan personally selected her to play his mother, Deloris Jordan, in the film.

“I’m just hearing about it now,” said Davis as she walked the red carpet with husband and co-star Julius Tennon. “So yeah, so it blew my mind. I’m glad I didn’t know about it before.”

Tennon, 69, added: “It’s pretty awesome that he wanted her to play his mom.”

Closing Night Special Screening SXSW Conference and Festivals

Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty

The first reviews of AIR have started rolling in, and it seems the film will most certainly be a hit. AIR will be Amazon’s first movie to premiere in theaters only without releasing it on Amazon Prime simultaneously. It hits theaters April 5.



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