Director Ben Affleck
Between nostalgia-baiting ’80s radio hits, [the characters] walk and talk strategy around production designer François Audouy’s great sets.Peter Debuge, Variety
- Chapter 1: Nike Headquarters
- Chapter 2: Basketball Division & Inner Atrium
- Chapter 3: Board Room
- Chapter 4: Basement Shoe Lab
- Chapter 5: Converse & Adidas
- Chapter 6: Jordan House
- Chapter 7: 7-Eleven
- Chapter 8: Vegas: The Dunes Casino
- Chapter 9: ProServe & David Faulk
- Chapter 10: A Final Appreciation
Feeling strapped to a rocket ship, I embarked on this exhilarating journey with just six weeks of preparation. I first met Ben Affleck—the film’s director, producer and co-star— a day after Ben’s unforgettable meeting with Michael Jordan at the basketball legend’s private golf course in Florida. Ben’s eyes were blazing with excitement as he regaled me with details of his five hour meeting with Jordan. His passion for the extraordinary story he had just experienced was palpable and left an indelible mark on our future collaboration.
Ben’s clear vision provided me with valuable guidance throughout the process. He had a succinct vision for every detail, from the wood-paneling in Phil Knight’s office to the spacey vibes of the Nike basement lab and the austere rectilinear aesthetics of Adidas.
To immerse ourselves in the era, Affleck would play his personal mix of ‘80s hits from his iPhone, a massive grin across his face as he told us where the needle drops would be placed in the story.
strapped to a rocket ship…
Research is a vital aspect of my design process, but unearthing the essence of Nike’s early headquarters would be a formidable challenge. Research Consultant Ozzy Inguanzo sounded the alarm early on, revealing a surprising truth—the internet seemed to have been “scrubbed” of all imagery related to the Nike corporation in the 1980s.
Inguanzo had to go deep, and quickly. Some key videos were found in the NBC News archives, and real estate records also yielded additional information about Nike’s unassuming corporate offices in Beaverton, Oregon. Atop this foundation, I infused the set designs with cues from mid-1980s corporate styling, capturing the raw essence of Nike’s humble beginnings.
When crafting the personal offices for our talented ensemble cast, research became a potent tool to communicate their backstories visually. These offices were not just sets; they were symbolic reflections of the underdog spirit that underscored our story.
Faced with the tight timeline, I had the advantage of continuing a long-term collaboration with my trusted core team: Supervising Art Director A. Todd Holland, Art Director Katrina Sainz, and Construction Coordinator Anthony Syracuse. Their expertise and dedication proved invaluable in bringing the sets to life within the extremely limited timeframe.
Amidst the construction frenzy, our core cast, Affleck, Damon, and Bateman, blocked their scenes amidst the clatter and hum of power tools—no time to waste! The spaces around them were still taking shape, but there was no room for idle moments. Witnessing this blend of artistry and craftsmanship was an inspiring sight—one that captured the very essence of the film’s core themes: the significance of individual dedication and the courage to embrace risks in the quest for greatness.
Ben envisioned an interconnected space for SteadiCam shots following characters as they walked-and-talked; the story was dialogue-heavy and he desired constant motion to be a visual counterpunch. It was transportive to enter the building through the entrance lobby, into the cafeteria, through the inner atrium, across the basketball division bullpen, up the brass and glass stairs to the C Suite which terminated at Phil Knight’s corner office.
The heart of the film’s narrative, the sprawling Nike offices required meticulous attention to historical accuracy and authenticity.
We took 22,000 square feet of contiguous office space at the Santa Monica Business Park and literally re-clad every surface—floors, doors, windows, walls and ceilings—in order to recreate the period. The rest of the building would be our production offices, which provided added efficiency.
These upstairs suites featured dark marquee walkways snaking around aubergine colored carpet with caramel velvet couches (hey, it was the mid-80s!). Knight’s office, in particular, was brought to life through a handful of photos, while Set Decorator Jan Pascale and her team meticulously sourced rare artifacts from Nike collectors and the ShoeZeum in Las Vegas.
Pascale even sourced the waffle iron used to fabricate the first Nike running shoes and framed photos the art department recreated of the pre-Nike days at Blue Ribbon sports.
One interesting nugget, Knight’s youthful travels to Japan left a lasting impact on him, so we adorned the Nike interior with oriental decorative accents, a visual tribute to the roots that shaped Knight’s vision.
Rob Strasser’s office (left) was full of many character details like a drafting table with layouts for Nike’s “Aloha” shoe from 1984, Civil War history books, and a bar cart filled with Strasser’s favorite libations.
This aesthetic by the cinematographer is greatly assisted by production designer François Audouy, buoys that grounded approach…the settings all feel like real locations in which these people reside.roger dean
Basketball Division &
The downstairs Basketball Division had to feel like the company’s least glamorous wing of Nike, so I selected a palette of stormy grays, oaky browns, deep cyan and faded orange. A giant “super graphic” line-work ran un-obstructed across the walls behind motivational posters and vintage print ads from the early 1980s.
Ben specifically requested working Macintosh computers, Apple IIs, word processors, hand-held video consoles, and what he referred to as “I remember that” ephemera like Garfield mugs, Ghostbusters bumper stickers, and handheld digital basketball games from Mattel. There were layers upon layers of details from 1984, and they all had to be able to withstand the roaming “C Camera” which was tasked with capturing these details in close ups and inserts.
The inner atrium of the building lay in the heart of the building. To make it evocative of verdant Beaverton, we replaced the palm trees with Northwestern pines, ivy and ferns. We also added a sad, bubbling fountain in the center, next to a sign for a small “smoking area” littered with used cigarette butts. The space felt effectively dour.
I was inspired by the packages of Architectural Record as well as the 1980 comedy “9 to 5” for Nike’s office commissary that sold drip coffee, vending machine treats and grab-and-go prepackaged snacks. Nike branded swag like coffee cups and folding chairs would also be available to the most devoted in the company.
Both White and Strasser’s offices were filled with very specific cues from their well-researched characters, creating uniquely personal spaces. These design choices reinforced a theme of the film—that individuals who are truly invested in their work can make a lasting difference.
For the office’s of Sonny Vacarro, Howard H. White, and Rob Strasser, I worked closed with Pascale to ensure each space embodied the characters’ motivations and aspirations.
The Sonny’s “office,” wasn’t really an office at all, but a “tape room” overflowing with VHS and BETA video cassettes, showcasing his life as a compulsive researcher.
Crafting the Nike board room allowed us to visually embody the company’s 1980s priorities. The space was meticulously designed with executive formality in mind, featuring walnut wall panelling and similarly-toned Anaglypta wallpaper. Portrait photos of the men on the board reflected the era’s demographics.
Notably, stylish black-and-white posters of Andre Agassi and Bruce Jenner showcased Nike’s focus on exceptional talent in the worlds of tennis and track, but there was no trace of basketball.
For Sonny’s video presentation, we sourced a hefty CRT projector from 1984 that happened to be available on eBay. It weighed a ton and was mounted securely to the ceiling with weighty steal fasteners.
This space encapsulated the prevailing attitudes and complexities of the time, offering a nuanced portrayal of the era’s corporate dynamics and focus on chasing the prevailing winds of the marketplace.
Ben encouraged me to push the design of Nike’s basement shoe lab to feel like it was from old 1980s movies rather than being rigidly historical. I needed the lab be a symbolic space highlighting the dedication, craftsmanship, and risk-taking involved in creating the Air Jordan sneakers. We anchored it with a massive light table which I thought created the effect of wizards peering into a magical cauldron.
I felt the space embodied the film’s core message: taking risks and pushing the boundaries can lead to groundbreaking achievements underscoring the significance of individual contributions and the importance of recognizing the value they bring.
To showcase the innovative technology behind Nike’s iconic Air Jordan sneakers, I included 1984 128K Macintosh computers, a treadmill connected to a computer mainframe and various blinking gizmos.
However, on the opposite side of the workspace, I worked with Pascale’s Set Dec team to dress in traditional shoe cobbler tools.
My aim for the Converse headquarters board room was to highlight the competition Nike faced in its pursuit of Michael Jordan. Traditional wood-paneled walls were accented by imposing six-foot tall posters of the formidable superstars of the “All Star” brand: Dr. J, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Ben wanted to punctuate Adidas’ Germanic roots so we brought on artist Michelle Millay to sculpt an 8-foot nude athlete, inspired by the “Ballwerfer” statue at the Hygiene Museum in Dresden. The edifice was placed before a 12 foot tall mosaic of the Olympic torch that played homage to the 1937 Olympics, painstakingly created by Graphic Designer Zach Fannin. The mosaic’s line-work was then CNC routed and then hand-grouted to create the effect of real tiles. Jan Pascale then added other artifacts from Adidas’ roots to create the effect of the offices also being a museum to history.
For the exterior of Adidas, Ben urged me to take chances visually, and invent an exterior rather than be constrained by research. I designed a digital matte painting with One Pixel Brush, who created the building in Blender 3D in a format that could be easily handed over the VFX as an asset, and ensuring that the final shot matched the concept exactly.
[Affleck] creates a 1980s texture that’s just there, at once slick and frowsy and lived-in, enveloping the characters and defining how they think.owen gleiberman
The interior of the Jordan house, surprisingly, was a minuscule two-wall set built squeezed into a corner of our Santa Monica offices.
The tight limitations presented a challenge for lighting, but with the incredible resourcefulness of Director of Photography Bob Richardson, not to mention Viola Davis’ stupendous performance, it turned out beautifully.
“Perfect results count — not a perfect process.”
The exterior neighborhood was second unit photography of a street in Georgia, cut together with Vaccaro’s arrival at a house in Northridge. A weathered asphalt driveway was added to the front yard, as well as greens and a foot-path sprinkled with sun-bleached coral (a nod to the Wilmington, North Carolina setting).
I focused on visually capturing the journey of Michael Jordan, from his modest upbringing to becoming a basketball legend. The back yard was simple and relatable, and the towering cedars were convincingly composited by the VFX team.
“A shoe is just a shoe until my sun steps into it.”
We recreated the long-gone Dunes Casino at the Hollywood Park Casino, and manufactured authentic neon signage, branded playing cards and posters.
A vacuous sports betting room was dressed out and hundreds of chain-smoking gamblers fixated on “in-camera” projections of 1980s harness races. The space connected to a betting parlor with vintage craps and blackjack tables.
Michael Jordan’s agent David Falk played a key role in the film’s plot, and we designed his ProServe offices to be a reflection of his influential status in the sports world, and also his character’s ego as an effective although egotistical 1980s super agent
His ebony lizard-skin walls were covered with personalized photos of Falk with his famous clients, each realistically composited by Zach Fannin. A subtle yet captivating detail was Jan Pascale’s inclusion of a curved jambiya dagger adorning Falk’s desk—a nod to his sharp wit and the cutthroat nature of the business.
You’re remembered for the rules you break.Phil Knight
Art Department Credits
- Supervising Art Director
- A. Todd Holland
- Art Directors
- Katrina Sainz
- Gary McMonnies
- Jason Perrine
- Set Decorator
- Jan Pascale
- Research Consultant
- Ozzy Inguanzo
- Concept Illustrators
- Harald Belker
- One Pixel Brush
- Set Designers
- Greg Papalia
- Chris Cortner
- Sarah Forrest
- Art Dept. coordinator
- Samara Ehlke
- Graphic Designer
- Zach Fannin