Matt Damon in Ben Affleck’s At Last

The old friends and collaborators are reprising their roles in Affleck’s Nike drama “Air,” their first official pairing as actors and directors.

Nearly three decades after Ben Affleck and Matt Damon burst into Hollywood history with the Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting,” old friends and collaborators are still finding new ways to work together. Next up: “Air,” in which the duo not only features Nike founder Phil Knight (Affleck) and his “basketball guru” marketing mastermind Sonny Vaccaro (Damon), but it’s the first time Damon is actually directed by Affleck.

On Monday night in New York City, the pair — at the film’s well-received weekend premiere at SXSW — joined Viola Davis, Julius Tennon and Matthew Maher for a special screening and post-screening discussion, during which the duo were inevitably asked about the new wrinkle in their partnership.

“Well, maybe it seems like the first time you were in charge,” Damon said with a laugh. (Affleck lovingly interjected, “It’s not the first time carried Him!”) “I mean, we did high school plays where he was like, ‘Dude, I think you should do this.’ He’s been controlling me for forty-some years.

Coming next month from Amazon Studios, the film follows Vaccaro’s attempt to sign up-and-coming superstar Michael Jordan to a massive marketing and sponsorship deal that ultimately saved Nike and reshaped sports forever. While Affleck puts a purposefully colorful spin on Knight, Damon does the heavy lifting, appearing in nearly every scene as the visionary marketing executive who became obsessed with the idea of ​​signing Jordan when the prospect seemed pretty remote for ailing Nike. brand.

“Honestly, it was kind of a natural progression,” Damon said. “We’ve written, produced and acted in so many films together over so many years and decades, so it was no different to work like this.”

Affleck added, “We’ve been asked this question a lot, and I keep thinking,Should did you feel different? Because it felt exactly the same. And what was really wonderful about it was that I really like and trust Matt, and it was so good to work with him, it felt like the other actors felt it (too). Like, “Come on, it’s okay, I love the actors, I love you, it’s going to be okay, everyone, take as much time as you want, do what you need to do, and respect yourself and project that energy.”

With a diverse cast including Davis, Tennon, Maher, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina and many more, Affleck’s intention to bring love and respect to the production seems to have paid off. The film has already earned her career-best reviews, and when it hits theaters next month, it looks set to be a big hit this spring.

Amazon Studios will release “Air” in theaters on Wednesday, April 5.

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