By Rollo Ross and Danielle Broadway
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Actor Ben Affleck is hopeful for basketball legend Michael Jordan’s seal of approval after directing the biographical sports film, “Air,” which is based on Jordan’s historic deal with the Nike shoe brand.
Despite glowing reviews from critics and audiences since its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, the retired Chicago Bull’s verdict on the movie still is not in. The movie premieres on Wednesday in theaters and will later stream on Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video.
A representative for Jordan did not respond to a request for comment about the film.
“I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable with promoting the movie any further by assigning Michael’s vote of approval to it,” Affleck told Reuters. “I will tell you that every step was taken along the way to make sure that he had every option available to him because of the respect that we have for him.”
The cast of “Air” includes “Good Will Hunting” actor Matt Damon, who produced the movie and portrays the real-life former sports marketing executive, Sonny Vaccaro. Affleck plays Nike co-founder Phil Knight and “The Woman King” actor Viola Davis portrays Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan.
The movie is the first from Affleck and Damon’s new production company, Artists Equity, which aims to ensure both cast and crew benefit from the film’s profits.
There was one key role that Affleck and Damon decided not to fill, and it was Michael Jordan’s.
“The second you put the camera on an actor and say ‘Hey, it’s Michael Jordan’ and it’s not Michael Jordan, you’re going to lose the audience, so we knew. Michael’s just too famous and means too much to people to try to have someone else play him in a movie,” Damon said.
Instead of casting an actor to try filling Jordan’s shoes, “Air” shows small snippets of the athlete’s presence, including intercut footage of his playing career at the end.
The film explores the origins of the popular Air Jordan basketball shoe line in the 1980s that captured Jordan’s black silhouette jumping with a ball in his hand on every shoe, eventually becoming a staple in both the fashion and sports industries.
(Reporting by Rollo Ross and Danielle Broadway; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)