How ‘Air’ Movie Landed its Classic ’80s Soundtrack


“Air” music supervisor Andrea von Foerster received a music playlist from Ben Affleck titled 1984. “It was literally my childhood,” she says of the song collection that featured classic ’80s hits including “Africa” by Toto, “Candy Girl” by New Edition and “Jump” by Van Halen.

The Affleck-helmed film, set in that same year, navigates Nike’s bid to land NBA player Michael Jordan and explores his groundbreaking sponsorship deal with the company.

That playlist from the director and star of the film was the springboard for the 23 needle drops and 18 score cues “Air” features. In curating the film’s needle drops, von Foerster wasn’t just using music to play against what was on screen — “the music was used as a showcase to tell a story,” she says.

Her goal was to use music from the year authentically, visually and musically where the lyrics would often match what was being seen on-screen. Dire Straits to Bruce Springsteen were some of the artists whose songs von Foerster secured to thread the story together. Cyndi Lauper’s ballad “Time After Time” is featured as Matt Damon’s character Sonny is waiting to learn whether Jordan will sign is played.

von Foerster explains the film didn’t have a big budget for its music, so much of compiling the soundtrack was asking artists and music publishers to trust the film and its story. She says, “‘Time After Time’ was in the script, so we went for it, but we did not have the money that people think we had. It really was about trust and telling people this would be a great film.” Foerster adds, “Apparently, Cyndi Lauper is a fan of Viola Davis. So she said, ‘Yes.’”

von Foerster walks through how “Air” landed its iconic tunes, and shares insight into what didn’t make the cut.

‘Money for Nothing’ – Dire Straits

“Originally, we had ‘Dirty Water’ by Don Henley, and then we tried for ‘Boys of Summer’ for the first main title. It did clear, but we didn’t get it in time.

‘Money for Nothing’ came up right after that, and you can’t do better than that. The fact that it plays under the logos and hits guitar when we start picture was perfect. But, it’s not from 1984, it’s from ’85, but it’s such an iconic song we felt it was too strong to let it go.”

‘Beverly Hills Cop Theme’ – Axel F – Harold Faltermeyer

“That was the heavy lift on this film. It was really hard, because most of the score from the ’80s has been sold. So, it was about trying to track down who owns what. Sometimes it’s owned by a company in France and sometimes it’s one person. But we got it. The big credit for this goes to William Goldenberg, our editor, and Cory Milano our music editor for sourcing a lot of those score cues.

“You can’t set a time better than using a cue from a movie that everybody remembers. Harold’s score from ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ is so well known. We use Axel F’s theme for such a short time, but it’s excellent and it does its job so quickly.”

‘Shop Territory’ – Tangerine Dream

“We didn’t have a composer so we licensed seven cues by Tangerine Dream, the German electronic music band. We had two spots that we needed to figure out, so we hired Paul Haslinger, a former member of the band, to compose music for those moments.”

‘Born in the USA’ – Bruce Springsteen

“We didn’t have ‘Born in the USA’ playing in the film. The scene where Jason Bateman’s Rob Strasser explains the song’s misconstrued meaning to Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) character was in there, but the song wasn’t meant scripted as a needle drop.

“Since that and Run DMC’s ‘My Adidas’ are name-checked, we had to get them. Bruce Springsteen had sold his catalog two years ago. So, I dealt with Sony Publishing and the label. They saw the film and said, ‘This is something that we want to be a part of – they also put out our soundtrack. But thank goodness to Sony. I don’t know if it’s Bruce who actually approves the use or if it’s just management…all I know is I worked a lot with Sony and it worked out.

“I don’t know what we would have done if it didn’t work out because we didn’t have a backup. There was no plan b.”

‘Jump (For My Love)’ – The Pointer Sisters

“The Pointer Sisters ‘Jump (For my Love) is what was actually played at Nike’s HQ in the scene when Michael Jordan visits. It’s what’s playing on the screen. Instead, we ended up using Dan Hartman’s ‘I Can Dream About You,’ and that was a last-minute change. That change was more about why a song like that just wouldn’t appeal to a sports figure. Dan’s song is a little mellow and it worked out better.

“‘Jump’ by Van Halen was a great fit, but we couldn’t get an answer back on that. In my script, we had ‘Nobody Told Me’ by John Lennon. We didn’t license Lennon. We knew it would be too expensive so we didn’t go for it..”

Listen to the soundtrack below.

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