Only one woman for the job. When it came time to cast the role of Michael Jordan’s mom in the new film Air, the basketball legend was adamant that the filmmakers ask Viola Davis.
Now, Viola Davis is opening up to ET about Jordan’s request, and how that played a factor in the way in which she approached the role.
“You know, you’re flattered at first and then the next second is pressure,” Davis admitted to ET at the SXSW film festival over the weekend. “[Pressure] to play the woman who basically is the orchestrator of this great athlete’s life, you know?”
In the film, Davis plays Deloris Jordan — while Davis’ real-life husband, Julius Tennon, plays her on-screen husband and Jordan’s father, James Jordan. Davis did quite a bit of research to play Deloris, and that added even more pressure.
“Obviously she was so influential and then I’m looking at videos of her and if you’ve ever seen videos of Deloris Jordan, she’s extraordinary, she really is,” Davis said. “Because she’s one of those, you know, she’s one of those people where you’re like, “Where did this talent come from? where did this vision come from?'”
Recently, Ben Affleck — who directed Air, and produced it alongside Matt Damon, both of whom also star in the project — opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about getting Jordan’s input on who should play his mom.
“I said, ‘So, do you have any ideas about who would …?’ And immediately I was like, ‘Oh, f**k.’ Because I’m about to ask him who to cast. And if I don’t get them, it’s going to look to him like I ignored him,” Affleck recalled. “It’s actually hard to get actors. And I knew who he was going to say because it was the same person that I’ve wanted to direct for so long, who I think is … I don’t think there’s an objective best actor. But I do think there’s a group of people who you can say, ‘These are the best actors in the world.’ And Viola’s quite obviously among them.”
“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. However it happened, it wasn’t his problem, but it was going to f**king happen. And I was like, ‘OK, Mike.'”
As for how Affleck managed to convince Davis to take on the role, the filmmaker said, “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,'” Affleck joked.
As for Davis, she seems particularly proud of the project and what fans are going to get from it.
“I want them to see it, I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re going to experience,” Davis told ET. “Because I’ve read comments… [and] when I’m reading the comments, people don’t even –, they can’t even anticipate what they’re about to see.”
Air is set to hit theaters and simultaneously release on Prime Video on Apr. 5.
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