Ben Affleck’s upcoming release Air premiered at the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival in Austin on Saturday, and he was quick to make it clear how much he wanted his Amazon Studios project to be a success.
“This is the most important night of my professional life,” Affleck said from the stage, amid some self-deprecating references to past projects that weren’t very popular. “This is an optimistic, hopeful film for people. So I can’t hide behind being a filmmaker – [as if to say] “You don’t have to understand my movie.” I really hope you enjoy it… So 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 reaction at the premiere, Affleck needn’t have worried about his reception: the film and its scene-stealing cast received a standing ovation. Air stars Matt Damon as a Nike executive who hires 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 his role and reuniting with Affleck’s “best friend” and collaborator “the best job I’ve ever had.”
“I played every day and had five to seven pages [of the script] Dealing with actors like that, it was ridiculous,” Damon said. “I’ve never had more fun. Ben and I, from the moment we read [Alex Convery]The script to the last cut we made in the edit was an absolute pleasure.”
In a rather bold creative decision, the actor said: “This is not a documentary. It’s not going to be the absolutely perfect story of who did what and said what…all mistakes in the film are mine.”
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Still, it’s hard to imagine Nike not being surprised by the extremely positive portrayal of their company in the film. In Affleck’s recent cover story with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor-director discussed the film and how he approached directing a film where 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 this is one aspect of it. I will not omit it because to omit it would further compound the impiety. What I’m going to do is talk to people who understand it better than I do and who can help me put it into context, and that was [costume designer] Charles [Antoinette Jones]that was Viola.
Air is set to hit theaters on April 5.
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