Famed athlete and entrepreneur Michael Jordan always knew who he wanted to play his mom in the upcoming movie Air. The film directed by Ben Affleck tells the larger story of the endorsement deal between Nike and Jordan, a rookie at the time, which led to the creation of his notable Air Jordan sneaker line. Read more about why Viola Davis was the only option to portray Jordan’s mom.
When Ben Affleck asked Michael Jordan who he wanted to play his mom in Air, Jordan knew immediately it had to be Davis. This proved to be a challenge for Affleck to secure one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood when the script initially only had one line for the character.
Affleck spoke to an audience at the film’s premiere at SXSW. He shares that he first asked Jordan if he had any particular wishes for the film. According to Variety, among his list of wishes was the portrayal of his mother.
“It was the first time I saw this look cross his face,” Affleck said. “It was a look of reverence, of awe, of love, and 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.’’
Affleck also told the Hollywood Reporter that at the time Jordan made the request, the role was pretty minuscule.
“Oh my God, he wants me to offer this to Viola Davis,” he told the publication. “How am I going to offer Viola Davis a movie with one line? That’s not going to happen.”
Affleck pleaded with Davis to play the role. While Matt Damon and his wife Jennifer Lopez worked on expanding the role, which led to Davis finally signing on to portray Jordan’s mom.
“This is a hard business,” Affleck shared at the film conference. “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.”
Air stars Davis, Affleck, Damon, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, and Damian Delano Young, who plays Jordan. It is set to debut in theaters on April 5.