In the early 1980s, Michael Jordan was a great college basketball player at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
No one was sure he would become one of the world’s most famous athletes.
At the time, the shoe company Nike was best-known for running shoes. Nike was not famous for basketball shoes.
When Jordan left college to become a professional basketball player, he did not have dreams of wearing Nike shoes. But 40 years later, Jordan and Nike are known as a team.
The new film, Air, tells the story of how Nike recruited Jordan to endorse its shoes.
The famous acting team of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon reunited to work on the film.
Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, who looked at all the college players for Nike and decided on Jordan. Affleck plays Nike co-founder Phil Knight.
Affleck directed the movie and Damon plays one of the main characters. Viola Davis plays one of the other main characters, Jordan’s mother, Deloris.
Damon and Affleck became famous when they made the 1997 movie, Good Will Hunting. The pair won an Academy Award, or Oscar, for writing the movie. In over 25 years since then, they have not often worked together.
It was not until they worked on The Last Duel, which came out in 2021, they understood that they missed each other.
Damon said his wife told him that he laughed differently with Affleck than anyone else.
So, Damon and Affleck decided they should “make it a priority” to work together.
Amazon Studios helped make Air, but the film is the first to come out of the production company started by Affleck and Damon. It is called Artists Equity. Affleck is the chief executive and Damon is the content leader. Their goal is to give the people who work on movies a greater piece of the profits.
Affleck said a lot of people who work on movies “are underappreciated and undervalued and make a huge difference in the quality of the experience in a film.”
He said his company wants to “recognize” those people in the same way Nike recognized Michael Jordan for “generating the art, the beauty, the majesty.”
Artists Equity helps keep Affleck and Damon together and it permits them to work with people they enjoy spending time with, including Davis.
Davis said working on Air was one of the best experiences she has had on the job. She said she knows acting, directing and running a production company takes a lot of work, because she does it herself. Her production company, Juvee Productions, worked on last year’s The Woman King.
Davis said being in charge is what all actors want once they have been in the business for many years.
“What they’re doing is what our fantasy is as actors, especially once we’ve reached a certain level,” adds Davis. “We want autonomy and agency.”
The production company has two more movies coming out soon: The Instigators, with Damon and Affleck’s brother, Casey; and Unstoppable, with Affleck’s wife, Jennifer Lopez.
The story of Air has to do with how Jordan and Nike helped each other build their brands. A brand can be two things. It can be a recognized line of products, or it can also be a person’s public image, what they are known for. People came to expect Jordan to do surprising things in basketball games. They expected Nike to create nice sports shoes.
Both Affleck and Damon have a brand, too. They are a creative team and best friends. People go to their movies because they expect them to be interesting.
Affleck said having a brand is “a hard thing for me to reconcile.” That is because, in his words, he is “complicated, contrary, and nuanced, and brands are simple.”
But life is different for them than it was in the 1990s when they established their brands.
The men are both in their 50s now. They have been in many movies. Affleck was once married to actor Jennifer Garner, but is now married to Lopez. Photographers who follow movie stars follow him and sometimes catch him looking sad, but he says he is happy.
“I have a good life. I’m very lucky,” he said.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.
Words in This Story
recruit –v. to find someone to joint an organization, a company or the military
endorse –v. to publicly say you like or use something in exchange for money
character –n. a person in a book, play, TV show or movie
priority –n. something that is more important than other things
underappreciated –adj. not valued enough
generate –v. to cause to happen, to create
majesty –n. the condition of being very impressive
fantasy –n. a wish or hope
autonomy –n. when a person is able to do things on their own
agency –n. being in charge of one’s life
reconcile –v. to fit things or ideas together
contrary –adj. disagreement
nuance –n. a small idea, a small difference between two things
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