Ben Affleck’s upcoming release Air, which played at the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival in Austin on Saturday, made it clear just how much he wanted his Amazon Studios project to be a success.
“This is the most important night of my professional life,” Affleck declared from the stage, amid some self-deprecating references to previous projects that weren’t very popular. “This is an optimistic and hopeful film about people. So I can’t hide behind being an auteur filmmaker. [as if to say] ‘You don’t have to understand my movie.’ I really hope you enjoy it… So there’s no pressure, but it’s up to you.”
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Affleck directed and starred in Air, a biographical drama chronicling the revolutionary creation of Nike’s Air Jordan footwear line. Judging by the audience’s reaction to the premiere, Affleck needn’t have worried about his reception: the film and his cast received a standing ovation. Air stars Matt Damon as the Nike executive who hired Michael Jordan for 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 the role of him meeting his “best friend” and collaborator Affleck “the best job I’ve ever had.”
“I was acting every day and had five to seven pages [of the script] Dealing with actors like this, it was ridiculous,” Damon said. “I have never had more fun. Ben and I, from the moment we read [Alex Convery]from the script to the last cut we made in the edit, it was an absolute delight.”
In a rather bold creative move, the actor said: “This is not a documentary. This is not intended to be the absolutely perfect story of who did what and what did he say… all the mistakes in the film are mine”.
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Still, it’s hard to imagine that Nike wouldn’t be surprised by the extremely positive presentation of their company in the film. In Affleck’s recent cover story in The Hollywood Reporter, the actor-director discussed the film and how he approached directing a film in which American society intersects with black culture. “I wouldn’t make a movie whose central premise is the appropriation of black culture by white Americans for profit,” he said. “It’s not my movie. I’m telling a story that’s about a combination of things, and that’s one aspect. I won’t 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 who can help me put it in context, and that was [costume designer] charlese [Antoinette Jones]that was Viola.
Air It will open in theaters on April 5.