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Ben Affleck receives standing ovation at SXSW during ‘Air’ screening

The actor-turned-director premiered his movie ‘Air’ at SXSW on Saturday.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 18: Ben Affleck attends the "AIR" world premiere during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)
Michael LoccisanoGetty

Ben Affleck’s new sports drama ‘Air’ premiered on Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and received a very warm response, to Affleck’s surprise.

Affleck prefaced the screening by saying that it was important to him that the film was well-received. The actor-turned-director is no stranger to directing as ‘Air’ marks Affleck’s sixth directorial effort, with previous films including ‘Argo’ which was nominated for multiple Academy Awards in 2013 and won Best Picture.

An overwhelming response

“Tonight is the most important night of my professional life,” Affleck told the audience ahead of the worldwide premiere of ‘Air’.

“This is an optimistic, hopeful movie about people. So I can’t hide behind being an auteur – [as if to say] ‘you don’t need to understand my movie.’ I really hope you like it … So no pressure, but it’s all on you.”

The movie focuses on Sonny Vacarano, played by Matt Damon, the then-Nike salesman who signed NBA legend Michael Jordan to make a deal to wear their shoes. Affleck plays Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. The movie also stars Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker and Chris Messina.

After the movie was screened, Affleck and his fellow cast members received an ovation, much to Affleck’s delight.

“I couldn’t believe the amount of screaming and the yelling [during the screening],” Bateman said afterward. “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 were somehow able to enhance what Michael Jordan means to all of us – which was already the zenith 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 film, and create that kind of feeling that we all just had.”

Damon was excited to be working with his best friend again, calling the opportunity “the greatest job I’ve ever had.”

“I showed up every day and had five-to-seven [script] pages to do opposite actors like this, it was ridiculous,” Damon said. “I’ve never had more fun. Ben and I – from the moment we read [Alex Convery’s] script to the last cut we made in the edit – it was just absolute joy.

Affleck wanted to make a movie about the legendary Michael Jordan but admits the movie is not necessarily about accuracy.

“This is not a documentary. This is not meant to be the absolute perfect history of who did what and said what … all the mistakes in the movie are mine.”

Air will be released in theaters on April 5, 2023.