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Viola Davis On Playing Michael Jordan’s Mother In ‘Air’: “I Wanted To Know More About This Woman”

When Ben Affleck met with Michael Jordan about Sky, the director’s new film that highlights a key moment in the basketball icon’s story, Jordan had one request. “Viola Davis. That’s my mom,” the filmmaker recalls The Hollywood Reportr from what Jordan told him.

Skythe story of how Michael Jordan’s family and a group of executives at Nike revolutionized the company with one historic sneaker deal, premiered Saturday at the South by Southwest film festival, before Amazon released it in theaters on April 5. In addition to Davis as Michael Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan, the film also stars Matt Damon, Chris Tucker, and Jason Bateman as execs at Nike, Affleck as Nike co-founder and former CEO Phil Knight, and Davis’s real-life husband, Julius Tennon, as Jordan’s father. .

For Davis, who shot the movie after completing her grueling Woman king shoot, the character of Deloris was the draw.

“Mothers are the most important figures in a person’s life, so I was very flattered and deeply moved when I was asked to play Michael’s mother,” Davis said. THR. “I know Michael Jordan but was unaware that Deloris brokered this deal to give him a huge stake in the shoe and in turn protect 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. That Deloris has this insight, this forward-thinking vision, and can hold her own in the bargaining room—which I know can be the hardest part of the job—makes her an incredible woman. That has ensured that I settled into this project.”

In an early draft of the script, before Affleck met Jordan, Deloris’s character was minimal, he said. But fueled by Jordan’s input – and boosted by the advice of Affleck’s wife, Jennifer Lopez – the filmmaker came to see Deloris as key to the story, expanding on the role.

One of Davis’ pivotal scenes is a phone call between Deloris and Damon’s character, Sonny Vaccaro, the executive of Nike who is trying to get her son signed to a contract. The scene consists of seven pages in the script, which Affleck shot with four cameras on each actor.

“I want to play the scene so they can get up, they can do what they want, they can walk around,” Affleck said. “We did two takes and I said, ‘That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. I’m ready. If you want to go again, I’ll shoot all day.” [Davis] went, she watched the playback. When she came out, it was the first time I’d seen her smile and I was just like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was the most beautiful, rewarding moment.”

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