Ben Affleck on the challenges of telling Air's real life underdog story 5 months ago

Ben Affleck on the challenges of telling Air's real life underdog story

Affleck directs and is one of the stars of the sports drama.

Set to be a must-watch for fans of Moneyball and The Social Network, Air arrives in Irish cinemas this week.


The already critically acclaimed biographical sports drama sees Ben Affleck, who also directed the movie, play Phil Knight - the co-founder and CEO of Nike.

In the film, Knight tasks talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) in finding three NBA players for Nike's basketball division to sign on and sponsor. Instead, Vaccaro wants to sign one and only one player: Michael Jordan.

Set in the '80s, an interesting element of Air is that it depicts a time in which Nike was not the huge corporation it is now.

When JOE chatted to Affleck and his co-star Chris Tucker, who plays Nike executive Howard White, we asked the director about the challenges of selling a movie in which Nike is portrayed as the underdog.


Ben Affleck on Air

"It is very difficult. That's hard because you're running counter to the audience's understanding and expectations," Affleck explained.

"They're not going to assign underdog status or likeability status to giant corporations. But I do believe there was a spirit of kind of rebellion and revolutionary ambition to Nike.

"They were one of the first companies to sort of, they had these rules and some of them ended up being kind of random, like 'live off the land'. Like, what do you mean? You guys are a shoe company. You're living off the land? But some of them were about doing the right thing. Now, every company's got an ethos and talking points but that wasn't the case then.

"The really hard part was to sort of go: 'Well, they were an incredibly successful jogging company'. That's true. So, in that sense, they were like a big behemoth.

"In another sense, they were the shithole last place and they're about to kind of be like: 'Well, forget it. We're just going to can everybody because we can't succeed.'

"So, you've got like both David and Goliath in one company and that took some kind of pipe laying, trying to sort of lay down the exposition to get that across. Chris [Tucker] had to get a lot of that across and if you do it with a character that's likeable and funny and has their own perspective, you kind of don't even notice."

You can watch that full interview with Ben Affleck and Chris Tucker here:


Air arrives in Irish cinemas on Wednesday, 5 April. You can check out our interview with its other stars Chris Messina and Jason Bateman right here.

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