As he prepares for the debut of his upcoming film, Air, Ben Affleck has credited his wife, Jennifer Lopez, with helping him tell the story of Air Jordan sneakers properly, along with others including actors Viola Davis and Chris Tucker, the latter of whom he called “a fucking really good writer.”
During a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Affleck discussed being “miserable” while making Justice League, his new production company Artists Equity—which is built around the idea of profit sharing between actors, directors, and producers in addition to certain crew members—and his upcoming film. He also opened up about becoming a meme, and how past interviews have made him more “guarded.”
While discussing Air, Affleck mentioned that both Matt Damon and Lopez contributed “some great lines” to the script. When asked to elaborate on Lopez’s contributions, Affleck praised her “brilliant” insights into “the way fashion evolves through the culture as a confluence of music, sports, entertainment, and dance.” In particular, he said, Lopez helped him express that “part of the reason why Jordans were so meaningful is because culture and style in America is 90 percent driven by Black culture,” which is often appropriated and re-marketed by white corporate entities.
“In this case, [Nike], a white-run corporate entity, was starting to do business with African American athletes in an identity affiliation sales thing,” Affleck told THR reporter Rebecca Keegan. “They were really taking value from what Michael Jordan represents and who he is. I don’t think the meaning can be overstated.”
When Keegan asked if, as a white filmmaker telling the story of Air Jordans, Affleck risked replicating that dynamic, the director clarified that the film is not exclusively about “the appropriation of Black culture for profit by white Americans,” as that is “not my film to make.”
“I’m telling a story that’s about a combination of things, and this is one aspect of it,” Affleck said. “I’m not going to omit it because to omit it would further compound the disrespect. What I am going to do is talk to people who understand it better than I do and who can help me contextualize it.”
In working on Air, written by screenwriter Alex Convery, Affleck said he spoke with costume designer Charlese Antoinette Jones, as well as Viola Davis (who plays Michael Jordan’s mother in the film), and Chris Tucker—the latter of whom Affleck credits (and said he paid) both as an actor and as a writer for his input on the script.
Beyond his work, Affleck and Keegan discussed Affleck’s reign as an Internet meme. For the record, Affleck doesn’t mind that his facial expression went viral at the Grammys, although he says he had a good time. More interesting, he said, is the narrative itself.
“I’ve gone to events and been pissed off,” he said. “I’ve gone and been bored. I’ve gone to award shows and been drunk, a bunch. Nobody ever once said I’m drunk. [But at the Grammys] they were like, ‘He’s drunk.’ …That raises a whole other thing about whether or not it’s wise to acknowledge addiction because there’s a lot of compassion, but there is still a tremendous stigma, which is often quite inhibiting.”