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‘Air’s Matt Damon & Marlon Wayans on the Magic of Viola Davis

Apr 7, 2023


Viola Davis is a bona fide star who can effortlessly carry any show or movie in a lead role, but she’s also got a knack for taking supporting roles and turning them into scene-stealing powerhouses. The world first took notice when she did just that in Doubt. With a mere eight minutes of screen time, Davis scored an Oscar nomination. She also has another Best Supporting Actress nomination to her name courtesy of her work in 2016’s Fences. Could there be another supporting nomination on the horizon for her performance in Air? Yes, it’s early in the year, but I’m already rooting for it to happen.

Directed by Ben Affleck, Air stars Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro. It’s the mid-80s and Nike’s basketball division is struggling to keep up with juggernauts like Converse and Adidas. In a last-ditch effort to save the division, Sonny insists they put their entire budget (and then some) towards a rising star, Michael Jordan. Sonny quickly learns that the only way to sign Michael is to win over his mother, Davis’ Deloris Jordan, an expert negotiator with a big heart who’s about to change sports marketing and athlete compensation forever.
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Image via Amazon Studios

With Air now playing in theaters nationwide, I got the chance to chat with Damon and co-star Marlon Wayans who plays George Raveling, one of Jordan’s coaches at the 1984 Olympics. During our chat, I absolutely had to ask about Damon’s experience working opposite Davis. As an actor who’s had some of the absolute best scene partners in the business, could he pinpoint something Davis does that puts her on another level? Here’s what he said:

“It’s very tough to quantify it. I’ve seen her in movies. I’ve seen her on stage. She’s a very explosive actress, she can be, and what was amazing about this was how she talked about neutrality with Dolores. There’s like an opacity. Dolores doesn’t give away her poker hand. You never know what card she’s holding. It’s just the amount of power that Viola can bring doing what looks like nothing, but it’s not. It’s very, very much not nothing. It’s another arrow in her quiver in terms of how dynamic her performances are. This is just another gear. She’s just amazing.”

Wayans jumped in to recall his first encounter with Davis and to further narrow down what makes her work so special:

“I just met her today and I just told her what a great job she did in the movie. I’ve seen her great in every movie, but for her to find a different way to be great where some people would give less, her less is actually more. It’s an intensity behind, it was in [it], and I found this performance so powerful in a way I have never seen her perform. It was like you felt this power beneath it, but it wasn’t on the surface.”

Image via Amazon Studios

Damon continued to build on the “less is more” idea, comparing Davis to two industry icons:

“Doing nothing, right? If somebody literally does nothing, you’d lose interest in them, but when an actress like Viola, I think also Meryl Streep, I’ve seen her do this a lot, Brando, you’re leaning toward, you’re coming towards them. You’re like, ‘What is it about this person that I’m …’ There’s like an electricity to them.”

Looking for even more from Damon and Wayans on their experience making Air? Be sure to catch our full chat in the video at the top of this article, and you can also watch my interview with Ben Affleck and Chris Tucker below:

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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