Michael Jordan has personally selected Viola Davis to play his mother, Deloris Jordan, in “Air: Courting A Legend.” Davis’ husband Julius Tennon will also star as Jordan’s father James Jordan. “Air: Courting A Legend” is set in 1984 and chronicles Nike’s pursuit of Jordan and the company’s pitch to land the basketball legend in an endorsement deal.
Ben Affleck, who directs the film and portrays Nike co-founder Phil Knight, told the story of meeting with Jordan ahead of filming while attending the world premiere of “Air” at SXSW 2023 in Austin on March 18. The Academy Award-winning actor revealed that the NBA champion insisted that Davis be casted to play his mother in the biopic.
“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,” Affleck explained.
“He talked about his mother. He just said, ‘None of this would have ever happened without my mother doing everything.’ I said, Who would you like to play your mom?’ And he said, It has to be Viola Davis. 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,” Affleck continued.
In an exclusive interview with People magazine at the SXSW Film festival 2023, the EGOT winner reacted to learning about Jordan’s request. “The Woman King” actress will share the screen with her husband Julius Tennon, who will play Jordan’s father James Jordan. “I’m just hearing this now,” she said. “It blew my mind. I’m glad I didn’t know about it before,” Davis said.
“I know Michael Jordan but didn’t know that Deloris brokered this deal to get him a huge stake in the shoe and in turn, protected her son’s legacy. I wanted to know more about this woman who had the strength and courage to fight for her son’s worth. For Deloris to have this insight and progressive vision, to stand her ground in the negotiation room – which I know can be the hardest part of the job – makes her an incredible woman. That made me lean into this project,” Davis explained.
Davis further added that she researched by watching videos of Deloris from the era.
“I use the term zen neutrality with her. Someone who just moves calmly through life, making major decisions, slaying dragons, making dreams come true. But doing it calmly and succinctly. Yeah, that’s not me,” Davis added.
“Air” also stars Matt Damon as Nike executive, Sonny Vaccaro who convinced Jordan played by Damian Young to sign the deal that would eventually lead to the creation of the iconic Air Jordan shoe line. Rounding out the cast is Chris Tucker as Howard White, Jason Bateman as Strasser, Matthew Maher as Moore, Chris Messina as David Falk, Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, Gustaf Skarsgård as Horst Dassler,
The film, written by Alex Convery, is the first project from Affleck and Damon’s Artists Equity, in collaboration with Amazon Studios, Skydance Sports and Mandalay Pictures.
“Air” will open in theaters across the globe on April 5 in advance of its debut on Amazon’s Prime Video.
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