Chris Tucker has been away from the big screen since his last film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 2016. Best known for his roles in cult classics like Friday and the Rush Hour films, Tucker has now explained why he’s decided to return to the box office in 2023.
The 51-year-old will be starring in the Ben Affleck-directed film AIR — a drama based on the rise of Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan sneakers under the Nike imprint.
While speaking at the premiere of the film during SXSW in Austin on Saturday (March 18), Tucker — who will play his friend and Jordan Brand vice president, Howard White — revealed why he decided to take on the role.
“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,” he told PEOPLE. “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 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.'”
Detailing his conversation with Affleck and Matt Damon (who produced the drama) he added, “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.”
According to Variety, Affleck already had Tucker in mind for the film after Jordan demanded that “Howard White needed to be in the movie.”
Tucker went on to express how much of a “ball” he had working with the cast, dubbing Affleck “Ben The Player Coach” because of his ability to execute both roles as actor and director. He also called the producer-director duo “brilliant geniuses.”
Tucker will star alongside Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans and Gustaf Skarsgård in the film based on a true story. Affleck will play Philip Knight, the co-founder of Nike, Inc., and Damon will play Sonny Vaccaro — the sports marketing exec who brought Jordan to Nike, leading to the birth of Air Jordan sneakers.
AIR premieres in theaters April 5. Check out the trailer below.