Chris Tucker Explains His Return to Movies in Ben Affleck's AIR : 'I Love Michael Jordan'
Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP/Shutterstock Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker is back on the big screen for the first time in seven years.
Speaking at Saturday's premiere of Nike drama AIR during SXSW in Austin, the actor, 51, told PEOPLE why he decided to make his movie return in the Ben Affleck-directed film.
Revealing he was approached to play his friend Howard White, who is vice president of the Jordan Brand, Tucker told PEOPLE, "My agent called me and said they got a movie about something to do with Michael Jordan, and they want you to play this character called Howard White."
"There wasn't no words, it wasn't no character, it wasn't there in the script. I said, 'Wait a minute, that's my friend.' So I called him [White] and found out that it was, he was in this movie and I said, 'Whoa man, but they said it's not much, but you know, I'm considering it cause it's you.' "
Tucker went on to explain how speaking with Affleck, 50, and producer Matt Damon — as well as his love of basketball legend Michael Jordan — convinced him to take on the role.
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Courtesy of Prime Video Chris Tucker in AIR
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He continued to PEOPLE, "Then I talked to Ben and Matt and they said, 'Hey man, we want you to come in, have fun. This is what we are doing. It's like making a movie with your friends'. And I said, 'Okay.' I love Michael Jordan. it's my friend Howard White. Ben said I can do whatever I want to do. I love the brand, the Jordan brand. Let's do it."
Tucker, whose last film was 2016's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, also opened up about how much fun he had during the shoot and working under Affleck's direction.
"I had a ball," he told PEOPLE. "I had a ball working with them and I called Ben The Player Coach cause he's an actor and director. So he knows how we roll, and he gives you that respect and that space to do your thing."
He added during a Q&A at the premiere that being a part of the movie was a "blessing" and hailed Affleck and Damon as "brilliant geniuses".
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According to Variety, Affleck said whilst introducing the film that one of Jordan's demands "was that Howard White needed to be in the movie." This led to Affleck to think about casting Tucker, whom according to Variety he has wanted to work with with for a long time.
As well as Affleck and Damon, 52, Tucker also stars alongside Viola Davis, her husband Julius Tennon, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans and Gustaf Skarsgård.
Based on a true story, Affleck plays Philip Knight, the co-founder of Nike, Inc., while Damon stars as Sonny Vaccaro, the sports marketing exec who helped sign Michael Jordan to Nike and launch Air Jordan sneakers.
AIR is the first film from Affleck and Damon's new production company Artists Equity and marks Affleck's first time directing since 2016's Live By Night.