How Michael Jordan’s Demand Brought Viola Davis & Husband Julius Tennon to ‘AIR’
Michael Jordan’s unimaginable business success with Nike may not have happened if not for his mother, Deloris. In what may come as a surprise to many, Jordan’s mom ensured that he would maintain ownership of his name and likeness.
So, it only makes sense that the GOAT of basketball personally requested the one-and-only Viola Davis, to portray the woman responsible for making us all feel like “it’s gotta be the shoes” in Ben Affleck’s new movie AIR, which details how the relationship between MJ and Nike came to be.
After receiving Jordan’s blessing to tell this story, Affleck says the 6-time NBA champion only had one request.
“And [Jordan] looked at me real straight and—by the way, there’s one line for the mother character in the movie at this point—and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, he wants me to offer this to Viola Davis,'” he told The Hollywood Reporter, “How am I going to offer Viola Davis a movie with one line? That’s not going to happen. But he was like, ‘That’s my mom.’ He was dead serious. ‘Viola Davis, that’s my mom. And that was it. Discussion was over.”
And how did he get the EGOT and How To Get Away With Murder star to say yes?
“Begging. I’m sure it was because I said, ‘Michael Jordan wants you to play his mom.’ It certainly wasn’t ‘Ben Affleck wants you to be in his movie.’ She’s not comfortable with sycophancy or obsequiousness. You can tell it chafes her,” he said. Well, it seems his approach worked as both AIR and Davis’ portrayal have been receiving rave reviews ahead of the film’s theatrical release.
Along with an all-star cast that features Chris Tucker, Matt Damon, and Affleck is Davis’ real-life husband, Julius Tennon, who plays Jordan’s late father, James. The pair’s love story has been well-documented and they’ve occasionally shared screen time but never at this level.
Affleck said the two made it look easy.
“When they ran a scene together I was always like, ‘Just get into it.’ Because they’re married, it doesn’t matter what kind of day they’re having or what they do, it’s going to be real. You see two people who can talk to each other by doing this,” Affleck said.
“It felt like home, you know?” Davis said. About his character’s approach to Deloris’ business dealings on behalf of their son, Tennon said, “He’s got that protective nature, like any husband would protect his wife”.
AIR is in theaters now.