Who Plays Michael Jordan in Air? Why Don’t We See Michael Jordan’s Face in Air?

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Prime Video

Prime Video’s ‘Air’ charts the origins of the Air Jordan brand, focusing on the story behind its inception and the efforts it took for Nike to get Micheal Jordan on their side. Directed by Ben Affleck, the movie stars Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, who comes up with the idea of a shoe line created around Jordan. The Nike executives, salesmen, and shoemakers dedicate 48 hours to creating the perfect pitch that would rival brands like Converse and Adidas, which offered more money.

The creation of Air Jordan was a pivotal moment in the basketball legend’s life, which is why it is curious that everyone, from his parents to his agents, appears in the film, but he doesn’t. We never get to see his face, and he speaks a total of three words in the entire movie. Why is that? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Unique Approach to Michael Jordan’s Portrayal

The role of Michael Jordan in ‘Air’ is played by Damian Delano Young. His credits include ‘Strictly for the Streets Vol. 2’ and ‘Prom Night Flex,’ both released in 2022. Appearing in a Ben Affleck-directed film, with actors like Viola Davis and Matt Damon, and playing Michael Jordan is a great opportunity for an actor. Young, however, only appears in partial profiles in the film. We see his hands and hear his voice, but his face never comes into focus.

Why Don’t We See Michael Jordan’s Face in Air?

‘Air’ is the origin story of Air Jordan, which means that not having Michael Jordan in the film was impossible, but Ben Affleck knew that showing him “could destroy the movie.” “When you are that person, when you become so much more than a hero or an athlete or even an icon, you start to become an idea to people. You touch them and just start to represent hope and excellence, and greatness. You are one of a kind. And there is no way I was ever going to ask an audience to believe that anybody other than Michael Jordan was Michael Jordan,” he said.

Instead of having an actor play Jordan, Affleck used magazine covers and archival footage to show the audience “as he truly is in his authentic masterful genius which exists for all of us to see.” Even though an actor was brought in to mark Jordan’s presence in pivotal scenes, like when the idea is pitched to him and his family, his face was deliberately kept obscured from the camera. “I thought he was too majestic to have anyone impersonate him and – as I told him – ‘You’re too old to play the part,’” Affleck said.

Another thing that Jordan’s bare-minimum presence did was tap into the mystery of the celebrity. “We felt a more interesting way to tell the story would be for him to exist in the ether of the movie. To be talked about by everyone but not seen is somewhat analogous to the experience of celebrities and sports stars in modern life because most people go their whole lives without ever meeting or seeing their favorite sports star or celebrity in person. We don’t ever fully see him in person because to see him in person would be to put his feet on the ground in a way that the movie doesn’t want to do,” the Oscar winner added. This technique also allowed the audience to bring their perspective of Jordan and project it onto the movie.

While Michael Jordan doesn’t appear in the film, he did play a pivotal role in crafting the story. Ben Affleck wanted to make sure that they got the story right and that it focused on all the people who were involved in signing the Air Jordan deal. Jordan told him to include George Raveling and Howard White without fail. He also talked about his mother’s role and wanted Viola Davis to play her. This strengthened the story, giving it a better direction. Affleck also realized that the true fulcrum of the story was Deloris Jordan, and he did everything to “do justice to her, as well as Michael, and honor who they are and the lasting impact they have on our culture.”

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