Ben Affleck Debuts ‘Ether’ at SXSW – The Hollywood Reporter

Ben Affleck has shown the world premiere of his new film Weather at the South by Southwest Film and TV Festival in Austin on Saturday, and was quick to make it clear how much he wants the Amazon Studios project to succeed.

“Tonight is the most important night of my professional life,” Affleck declared from the stage, making self-deprecating references to previous projects that were not very popular. “This is an optimistic, hopeful film about people. That’s why I can’t hide behind the fact that I’m an author – (as if to say) “you don’t need to understand my film”. I indeed I hope you like it… So there’s no pressure, but it’s all on you.”

Affleck directs and stars Weather, a biographical drama about Nike’s revolutionary creation of the Air Jordan shoe line. Judging by the reaction from the premiere audience, Affleck needn’t have worried about his reception – the film and its scene-stealing cast received rapturous applause. Weather Plays Matt Damon, the Nike executive who signed Michael Jordan to his first sneaker deal.. Affleck plays Nike CEO Phil Knight, and the film also stars Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker and Chris Messina.

Damon called his role — and reuniting with his “best friend” and longtime collaborator Affleck — “the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

“I showed up every day and I had five to seven (script) pages to draw these opposite actors, it was ridiculous,” Damon said. “I’ve never had so much fun. “From the moment Ben and I read (Alex Convery’s) script to the final cut in the edit, it was just a joy.”

Davis, whom Affleck called “the best actor I’ve ever seen,” spoke about what Deloris, Jordan’s protective, business-minded mother, meant to him. “Deloris and my mother were born into a generation of dream children. It is the height of Jim Crow. To say that black people’s dreams don’t matter is high. It’s kind of a miracle that he still has this grand vision for his son and believes in it wholeheartedly. It was an honor to play Deloris.”

Bateman was stunned by the crowd’s reaction to the film: “I couldn’t believe the amount of screaming and yelling (during the screening),” he said. “What Ben and Matt were able to do with this story … it’s an American business story and they made a rock show out of it. They somehow managed to heighten what Michael Jordan meant to all of us – it was already the pinnacle of greatness and excitement. I’ll never think of Michael Jordan or Air Jordans the same way again because of what Ben was able to do with this movie, and we were able to create the feelings that we all felt.”

In a rather bold creative choice, Jordan himself is not directly featured in the film, which Affleck explained was an attempt by the actor not to resemble the larger-than-life living legend that audiences are already so familiar with. “I will never want the audience to believe that someone else is Michael Jordan,” he said. “It was out of my personal interest, frankly, because I knew it would ruin the movie.” He also added, “This is not a documentary. It is not intended to be a necessarily perfect history of who did what and said what…all errors in the film are mine.”

Affleck said he showed the film to the real Phil Knight and, given the film somewhat satirizes the Nike co-founder, “and I realized that could be a huge mistake.” “But people like to make fun of the boss, it’s part of the workplace culture,” he said. “I’ve been known to appear in memes from time to time.”

However, he said he avoided contact with Nike and its executives during the film’s development and production. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with, communicate with, or accept anything from Nike because I didn’t want to be accused of promoting or advertising or changing anything to favor them.” Still, it’s hard to imagine Nike not being excited by the movie’s extremely positive presentation of their company.

In The The Hollywood ReporterIn Affleck’s current cover story profile, the actor-director talked about the film and how he approached directing a film in which corporate America intersects with Black culture. “I wouldn’t make a movie whose premise is the appropriation of black culture by white Americans,” he said. “This is not my film. I’m telling a story about a combination of things, and this is one aspect of it. I’m not going to let it go, because to let it go would add to the disrespect. I’ll talk to people who understand it better than I do and can help contextualize it, and that was (costume designer) Charlese (Antoinette Jones), Viola. Chris (Tucker), he gave me monologues, he gave me scenes and it was very organic. So I said, “I want Chris to get paid as a writer. I want to be very clear that he is a contributing voice to this film.’”

Weather It will mark the first movie from Amazon to be released in theaters without a simulcast on Prime Video. The film will be released in theaters on April 5.

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