Ben Affleck Screens ‘Air’ for the First Time at SXSW – The Hollywood Reporter

Ben Affleck screened the world premiere of his new film Air at the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival in Austin on Saturday and was quick to say how much he wants his Amazon Studios project to succeed.

“Tonight is the most important night of my professional life,” Affleck said from the stage, while making self-deprecating references to previous projects that weren’t hugely popular. “It’s an upbeat, hopeful film about people. So I can’t hide behind being an auteur – (as if to say) ‘you don’t need to understand my film’. I Really I hope you like it… So no pressure, but it’s all up to you.

Affleck directed and co-starred in Air, a biographical drama chronicling Nike’s groundbreaking creation of the Air Jordan shoe line. Judging by the audience reaction to the premiere, Affleck needn’t have worried about its reception – the film and its cast full of scene-stealers received a rapturous ovation. Air stars Matt Damon as the Nike executive who signed Michael Jordan to his first sneaker deal. Affleck plays Nike CEO Phil Knight, and the film also stars Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker and Chris Messina.

Damon called his role – and his reunion with his “best friend” and longtime collaborator Affleck – the “best job I’ve ever had”.

“I showed up every day and had five to seven pages (of script) to do opposing actors like this, it was ridiculous,” Damon said. “I’ve never had so much fun. Ben and I – from the time we read the script (by Alex Convery) to the final cut we made in the edit – it was just an absolute joy.

Davis — whom Affleck called “the best actor I’ve ever seen” — spoke about what Deloris, Jordan’s protective and business-savvy mother, meant to her. “Deloris and my mother were born into a generation of people whose dreams were their children. This is the height of Jim Crow. It’s the height of black people being told that their dreams didn’t matter. So far, having this great vision for his son and believing in it with all his heart is kind of a miracle. It was an honor to play Deloris.

Bateman seemed stunned by the crowd’s reaction to the film, “I couldn’t believe the amount of screaming and screaming (during the screening),” he said. “What Ben and Matt were able to do with this story… it’s an American business story and they made it into a rock show. They were able to somehow enhance what Michael Jordan means to all of us – which was already the zenith 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 and create that kind of feeling that we all just had.

In a rather bold creative move, Jordan himself is not directly shown in the film, which Affleck says was an effort to avoid an actor posing as a larger-than-life living legend than the audience. already knew so well. “I was never going to ask an audience to believe someone else was Michael Jordan,” he said. “Which was out of my own interest, frankly, because I knew it would destroy the movie.” He also added: “This is not a documentary. It’s not meant to be the absolute perfect story of who did what and said what…all errors in the film are mine.

Affleck said he showed the movie to the real Phil Knight, “and halfway through I realized that could have been a gigantic mistake” given how the movie satirizes the co-founder from Nike. “But people like to make fun of the boss, it’s part of the work culture,” he said. “I’ve been known to pop up in an occasional meme.”

That said, he said he avoided contact with Nike and its executives during the film’s development and production. “I didn’t want to have any communication or contact or accept anything from Nike because I didn’t want to be accused of making propaganda or publicity or modifying anything in order to attract favors from them.” Still, it’s hard to imagine Nike not being thrilled with the film’s overwhelmingly positive presentation of their company.

In THE Hollywood journalistAffleck’s current profile cover, the actor-director spoke about the film and how he approached making a film where corporate America intersects with black culture. “I wouldn’t make a movie whose central premise is the appropriation of black culture for profit by white Americans,” he said. “It’s not my film to make. I’m telling a story that’s about a combination of things, and that’s one aspect of it. I’m not going to omit it because omitting it would further aggravate the disrespect. What I’m going to do is talk to people who understand it better than me and can help me put it in context, and that was (the costume designer) Charlese (Antoinette Jones), that was Viola. Chris (Tucker), he gave me monologues, he gave me scenes, and it was very organic. And that’s why I was like, ‘I want Chris to get paid as a writer as well. I want to be very clear that there is a voice that contributes to this film. “

Air will mark Amazon’s first film to hit theaters without a simultaneous release on Prime Video. The film hits theaters on April 5.

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