From the sounds of it, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are in a good place these days. They’ve known each other for forty-some years, and now they’re working together again. To hear them describe it, they never had a better time. “That’s one thing we wanted to do,” Affleck said, “was the idea of, why aren’t we hanging out and spending more time together, since we’ve been friends this whole time?”
“Plus, we hit our 50s,” Damon said. “I mean, you can see the end of the tunnel!”
Affleck said, “The most wonderful thing I found about it was that I loved coming to work every day. I love watching Matt. First of all, he’s a genius. Having him as the anchor of your movie is what it’s like…”
“See?” Damon smiled. “Forty-some years it took…?”
“No, I didn’t think so!” Affleck laughed. “But it just made it so much easier. And it was so much fun—I don’t know. It kind of felt like us and we were getting to do what we wanted to do. I did. I loved it. I loved. It. Ever since. I miss it every day. It was the best work experience of my life, without question.”
That experience is the movie “Air,” debuting in theaters only on April 5 It tells the story of Nike and how, in 1984, they built an entire shoe brand around an NBA rookie player they thought would become a household name: Michael Jordan.
In the film, Affleck (who also directed the film) plays Nike founder Phil Knight; Damon is Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike executive who tries to sell him the idea.
Vaccaro: “I mean, if you look at him, if you really look at Jordan like I did, you’re going to see exactly what you’re going to see.”
Knight: “Which one?”
Vaccaro: “The most competitive guy I’ve ever met. He’s a killer.”
Click the video player below to watch the trailer for “Air”:
AIR | MGM’s official trailer on YouTube
We now know it turned out to be a killer deal for everyone involved: The Jordan Brand is still flying off the shelves, with over $5 billion in sales last year alone.
The movie isn’t a biopic, but Affleck made sure everyone looked as close to reality as possible, especially Damon, who thought, “My favorite thing about Ben is, when I finally got to work with him, he put me in a fat suit.”
And according to Affleck, Michael Jordan himself offered some advice: “Some things — I’m not sure I’m at liberty to share every single one. But what I will tell you is that he said, ‘Viola Davis is going to be my mother.'”
“Which is like picking Michael Jordan for your basketball team,” Damon added.
Davis actually played Michael’s mother, Deloris Jordan. Chris Tucker played, and helped write, the part of someone he knew personally: Nike VP Howard White. Affleck says, “I called Chris Tucker, who I’ve always thought was a genius and wanted to work with. And he was like, ‘I know Howard White.’ I said, ‘You know Howard White?’ Turns out everyone knows Chris Tucker!”
One person we rarely see is an actor who plays Jordan. When asked why, Affleck said, to him, the reason was obvious: “It’s a movie about an icon, about a person who means so much, that the minute, you know, I show you somebody and tell you, like, ‘Hey, that’s it. Michael Jordan, you just go, ‘No, it’s not. I know what Michael Jordan is. I know what he is.’
“And not only that, but the only actor who could play Michael Jordan was a little too old for the part, and we probably couldn’t afford him! But the idea was, if I show you somebody, you know he’s not Michael Jordan. , and now everything else is fake,” Affleck said.
So, the final result feels real. And as always, it was a team effort.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon met as kids in Cambridge, Massachusetts and clicked from the start, chasing the same Hollywood dream.
You might not have caught them as extras in the crowd at Fenway Park in Boston in 1989’s “Field of Dreams.” But you might have caught them on “Good Will Hunting,” for which they both won Oscars for original screenplays. It launched them, ready or not, into the Hollywood stratosphere.
HAL GARB/AFP/Getty Images
“What did it do to you, to win it at such a young age?” Smith asked.
“I remember it didn’t settle, it was, like, a few years, I think,” Damon replied. “It was completely surreal.”
“March of ’98, I was 25 years old,” Affleck said. “I look at myself now and think, ‘I still have a lot to learn.’ You know, that’s the curse of being 25, do you think you’ve got everything figured out.”
They seem to have it figured out. Individually, they’ve earned everything from box office honors to more Oscar gold.
Affleck said, “Honestly, one of the lessons of growing up is, it’s not all about the money. It’s not the most important thing. You spend your life chasing money, you end up, maybe end up with a lot of money, but you I’ll probably miss a lot. I don’t find that money has changed, like I’ve found more happiness. Actually, that’s the beautiful thing about this, is this happiness was being able to be here every day in Los Angeles with my kids around, seeing them every day. On their set. Ask to come. Work with my best friend all my life. There’s nothing more in my life than that. I thought, ‘Well, this is it. It’s what I’ve always wanted,’ you know?
“And then I thought, ‘This might mean I’m going to die!'”
“I literally had the same thought,” Damon laughed.
And now, Affleck and Damon have teamed up to form a new production company called Artist Equity, which will give film crews a bigger slice of the financial pie.
Damon says, “That’s why it’s called artist equity. The idea is that we’re pulling a bunch of people over the line who aren’t traditionally. And they can do a lot better financially than what they’ve done in film before.”
“Air” is their company’s first offering, with more to come soon “We’re going to work with Amazon again, to tell the story of Anthony Robles, a wrestler who was born with one leg and won a national championship for the state of Arizona,” Affleck said.
“And who’s starring in that movie?” asked Smith.
“I know where you’re going with this. But I’ll tell you who the lead actor is…”
“Is there another actor in that movie?”
“We always hire the best performers,” Affleck said. “And in this case, I can say that every single person that’s been cast so far I think is the best choice.”
“You dance that Jennifer Lopez is in this movie too?”
“Yeah, I believe Jennifer Lopez might be doing that movie. It doesn’t look like she’s doing it as a favor to me, but she is.”
It seems fitting that Affleck and Damon’s new movie is a story of collaboration: it’s what got them here and what keeps them going.
Affleck said, “What fun, what a joy to do anything with him, watch him be great, go to work with your wife, go to work with your best friend. Because ultimately, your work becomes the bulk of what defines you. Your life, you. In terms of the time that’s being spent. And if you don’t like who you’re working with, and if you’re having difficulties or problems at work, I think that’s something that’s really frustrating, anxiety and pain for people. And conversely, ( (If) you love people at work, you probably have a good life, you know?”
For more information:
“Air” opens in theaters on April 5
Story by John D’Amelio. Editor: Ed Givenish.