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The Hollywood Reporter

Ben Affleck Praises Wife Jennifer Lopez at ‘Air’ Premiere: “You’re Wonderful, Good, Kind, Magnificent and I Love You”

By Chris Gardner,


When Ben Affleck presented the world premiere of his new film Air at South by Southwest Film & FTV Festival in Austin earlier this month, the director, producer and star of the Amazon Studios release called it “the most important night of my professional life.”

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Monday night in Westwood must’ve been a close second.

Affleck turned up to the Regency Village Theatre for the L.A. premiere of his new film, which traces the roots of a game-changing partnership between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division which revolutionized the world of sports and culture with the Air Jordan brand.

It casts Matt Damon as Nike’s resident basketball expert, Sonny Vaccaro, Affleck as Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight, Jason Bateman as Nike marketing chief Rob Strasser, Chris Tucker as Howard White, Sonny’s colleague and advisor, Chris Messina as Jordan’s agent David Falk, Marlon Wayans as legendary coach George Raveling, Viola Davis as Michael’s mother, Deloris Jordan, her husband, Julius Tennon, who plays Michael’s father, James Jordan, and Matthew Maher as Air Jordan designer Peter Moore.
Marlon Wayans, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Matt Damon, Julius Tennon, Jason Bateman and Chris Tucker.

All were present at the starry premiere, a well-produced scene that hosted a red carpet covered in sections by a sleek basketball court, complete with a hoop ( Wayans scored a basket upon arrival ), bleachers with Nike-clad fans and pair of Mercedes-Benz rides. The premiere also featured swarms of Nikes worn by guests, publicists and working press, so many pairs that it could easily rival a basketball game or sneaker convention.

After Affleck and company made their way down the press line — the Oscar winner generously stopped for each outlet to chat up his film, a collaboration of Amazon Studios and Skydance Sports presenting an Artists Equity and Mandalay Pictures production — he took his time under the theater’s lights to introduce the film and offer gratitude to all involved.

Though he didn’t say it was the second most important night of his professional life, it seemed that way as he became emotional at times while delivering his remarks. “I know it sounds a little bit like a Saturday Night Live sketch,” Affleck said ahead of shouting out the principal cast and heaping praise on each one. “The dream team of actors, you know, the absurd bounty of this cast was overwhelming but they were all brilliant and extraordinary.”

He saved a special nod for his longtime best friend, Matt Damon. The pair not only reunite on screen in Air but the film marks the first producorial effort of their new company, Artists Equity, which aims to revolutionize the way crew is paid for their work. (Affleck talked at length about the company’s mission in a THR cover story .) “If you’re really lucky in life, you’ll have a friend like Matt Damon. I love him and it’s the biggest joy of my professional life to work with him,” said Affleck.

The night was full of celebration and friendly praise like that, but it was not without heavier moments, particularly when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke acknowledged the death of beloved distribution executive Erik Lomis , who died suddenly last week at age 64.

“This is a great loss, not only to our company, but to the industry at large,” said Salke in her opening remarks. “Erik ran theatrical distribution for MGM and Amazon and was a true champion in the movie business. I know those of us that were lucky enough to know him will cherish our memories of him and keep his passion for film theatrical distribution alive. Air is a film about taking chances, about believing in something that’s bigger than all of us and putting it on the line to chase greatness. This is what this creative team did to bring this film to the screen and it’s most befitting of Erik’s continued legacy.”

Speaking of legacy, Affleck made it clear that Air is not the definitive Michael Jordan story but “he is in every cell of the movie and above it and inhabiting it.” Affleck has said that Jordan didn’t have a ton of requirements for the film but did insist on having Davis be the woman who played his mother. “I think she’s emblematic of mothers who guide their children in cases where they find themselves accelerated at a young age in worlds that are hard to navigate. I don’t think you succeed or survive that without a powerful mother,” he explained. On that note, he thanked his own mother “who loves all my movies even the really bad ones.”

Affleck then prepared to close his introductory remarks but not before pausing briefly to enjoy the moment and shout out another special VIP in the theater — superstar wife Jennifer Lopez.

“This has been a joy, and I want to just enjoy this moment for one second,” he said. “And I want to say that none of it would be possible — this company, this movie, this joy tonight — without the love and support of my wife who means more to me than anything in the world. I want to say thank you. I love you. You mean the world to me. You’re fabulous, you’re amazing, you’re wonderful, good, kind, magnificent and I love you.”

See below for THR’s interviews with the Air family from tonight’s premiere including chats with Affleck, Damon, Bateman, Tucker and Messina. Air will mark Amazon’s first global theatrical release and it hits theaters April 5.

Viola Davis on Playing Michael Jordan's Mom in 'Air': "I Wanted to Know More About This Woman"

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