The 2009 film “The Blind Side” told the story of Michael Oher, a homeless black teen who was adopted by a white family that helped him deal with his learning difficulties and pushed him towards American football stardom. And the film didn't just tell an incredible story, it was based on the true story of Oher's rise to fame as an NFL player for teams like the Baltimore Ravens.
The film was a hit and many of its stars like Sandra Bullock and Kathy Bates were praised for their performances, but the real-life Michael Oher wasn’t thrilled with the way his life story was portrayed on screen. There were several details of Oher's real life story that were left out of the big screen production, and a few other details got skewed during the writing and filming process.
The Movie Was Praised by Hollywood
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated the movie, “The Blind Side,” for Best Film in 2009 thanks, in part, to its incredible cast. From Sandra Bullock, to Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates, Nick Saban, and of course, Quinton Aaron, who played Michael Oher, every actor in the film helped tell the story of an unlikely meeting that became a family bond. Although it didn't win the coveted award, the film has been remembered by audiences for years because of its true to life story and incredible heart.
The Film Was a Box Office Hit
The screenplay was written by John Lee Hancock, who based the movie off of the book, “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.” The book was written by Michael Lewis, who knew Oher personally from their time at school together. The film’s budget was only $29 million, but it was such a hit that the studio earned $309.2 million at the box office. But there was one person who wasn’t exactly happy with the film.
The Real Michael Oher Wasn’t Happy
“The Blind Side” didn’t impress NFL player Michael Oher, who was the real man behind the character in the film. It’s not that he had anything against actor Quinton Aaron, who played him in the movie. He simply felt that the film didn’t represent him and his personal life in the best way possible. And there were many facets of his unique story that were left out entirely, or changed to make the film more entertaining.
Aaron Didn’t Portray the Real Big Mike
Aaron played Oher, aka “Big Mike,” as someone who was really reserved and at times a bit uptight. He also didn’t smile much throughout the film. But Oher claims that he is the total opposite of that portrayal, and he wants fans of the movie to know that they can't always believe what they see on the big screen. To do so, he's always sharing his true personality with his fans and friends online.
Oher Was Always Smiling
The NFL is serious business, but Oher claims that there’s also room for a smile every now and then. In fact, he never took himself very seriously on or off the field and he was known by his close friends for his hearty belly laughs. But that’s not the only thing the film got wrong about Oher's life. And he set out to set the record straight when it came to the details they left out of the movie, too.
His Real-Life Struggles Were Watered Down
The film showed that Oher had a tough upbringing, which included a lack of blood relatives in his life and periods of time spent living on the streets. But he felt that the writers left out a lot of major details about his past struggles for the sake of shortening the length of the film’s runtime, which was understandable from Oher's perspective. To explain his life from start to finish would take a lot more than two hours.
Oher’s Family Was Complicated
Oher’s biological mother suffered from alcohol abuse and was prone to using various controlled substances. This made her an unsuitable guardian for him and his 11 siblings, who were taken out of her care by child protective services. This is why Oher ended up in foster care in Oslo, Tennessee, which was depicted in the famous film. But what about his father? Was he even in the picture?
Oher’s Father Suffered a Tragic Fate
Most therapists would agree that having a good male role model, biological or otherwise, is good for young kids who are learning how to pave their way in the world. But Oher lacked a stable father figure because his dad was often in and out of prison. And sadly, his father lost his life while he was serving time behind bars, which had a significant effect on the future football player.
The Film Exaggerated a Lot of Things
In the film, the Tuohy family finds Michael Oher standing in the middle of a major rainstorm, soaking wet and depressed from recent events. He was freezing because his clothes were all wet from the rain. But in real-life, the Tuohy family didn’t make him their only priority after taking him into their home right away. In fact, it took a lot longer for the family to welcome Oher into their home than the movie depicts.
They Didn’t Pick Him Up Right Away
According to Oher, Leigh Anne Tuohy paid him a visit at school the day after the family saw him standing in the rain. She then bought him some new clothes to make sure he would never find himself in that situation again. But none of this happened in an instant as was shown in the film, and there were other obstacles between Oher and the Tuohy family than the film portrayed.
The Movie Evaded the Race Issue
In the film, Sean Tuohy mentions that he can’t believe that he has a black son. Later in the film, the topic of race is mentioned again when one of Oher’s teammates makes a comment about him during a game. But for the most part, the film steers clear of any racial tension, even though in real life, the situation surrounding the topic was much less cut and dry. A few other people who knew the Tuohy's had some vocal opinions about the new addition to their family.
Leigh Anne’s Family Wasn't Happy
Oher claims that the film neglected to hint at the fact that Leigh Anne Tuohy’s family wasn’t necessarily pleased that she had adopted a black son because they were somewhat bigoted. But this didn’t take away from the fact that the Tuohy family themselves were fairly decent most of the time... just not always. The tensions between Oher and his adopted family are expected with any late in life adoption, but the movie left out most of the details of the experience.
His Adoptive Family Wasn’t Perfect
The Tuohy family embraced Oher as a son and a sibling to their other kids as soon as he was adopted by them. But as grateful as he was to have loving and supportive parents for the first time in his life, things weren’t always so cozy between them in the way the film made things out to be. There were a lot of emotional hurdles that both Oher and his adoptive parents had to overcome to eventually become a warm and nurturing family.
Both Sides Were Insecure
Oher and his adoptive family experienced tension in the beginning of his entrance into their lives and at times, both sides started to wonder if this was the right fit. So, they weren’t a perfect fit from the beginning the way the film made them out to be, which any family could reasonable expect. It took time for them to bond and get to know each other, but one thing was certain, it was a much better situation for Oher than he had previously.
Quinton Aaron Wasn’t the Perfect Oher
Hollywood thought that Quinton Aaron was the perfect actor to portray Oher. After all, Aaron and Oher have comparable builds and are about the same height. They also stand in similar ways, too. Aaron won the role not only because he could act, but because he could bring Oher's story to life in a realistic manner. But there was one thing that made the two men different, and audiences might not have even noticed it when they saw the movie on the big screen.
Aaron is Older
Aaron was born in 1984. That’s two years earlier than Oher. Fortunately, that’s only a minor difference between the two men. Otherwise, the casting would have been flawless. But there were other disparities in the film that were too big to ignore, and Aaron had nothing to do with them. Even his great acting chops couldn't mask the fact that the writers of the film simply got a few things wrong.
The Real Oher Didn’t Have Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock was, of course, the actress who played Leigh Ann Tuohy, Oher’s adoptive mom in the film. She pushed him and encouraged him with tough love throughout the story of the film. All of this led to his success in football. But Oher doesn’t recall Tuohy being the way she was portrayed onscreen. In fact, some of her presence is greatly exaggerated in the movie, and Oher set the record straight about this later.
His Adoptive Mom’s Significance Was Exaggerated
“The Blind Side” made it seem as if Leigh Ann Tuohy was Oher's mentor as he worked his way to become the best player on the field. But in truth, most of Oher’s real-life growth and success began when he didn’t have anyone around, and although Tuohy helped him in ways that eventually led to him becoming the football player he is today, she wasn't the only person in his life who encouraged him to reach his goals.
This Was Quinton Aaron’s First Role
Despite some of the discrepancies between fiction and reality, most viewers felt that Aaron did an amazing job portraying Oher. In fact, they couldn’t see anyone else in the role. But most people didn't realize that this was the actor's first major lead role. Before “The Blind Side,” he had only taken on minor roles. And even though he had been acting for a few years at that point, he hardly had any film experience under his belt.
Aaron Didn’t Think He Got the Part
When Aaron auditioned for the role of Oher, he was earning a living as a security guard and after his audition, he didn’t even think that he got the part. But after his audition, he handed his business card to director John Lee Hancock and told him he would provide his services as a security officer during filming if the role was no longer available. He believes this action ultimately earned him the role.
Oher’s Transition to High School Was Pure Fiction
In the film, Oher’s assimilation into Briarcrest Christian School went off without a hitch. But Oher doesn’t recall the real-life experience going quite as smoothly and he claims that the film's writers rewrote history to make his onscreen journey more emotional. For instance, there were a lot of tests and assignments that the future football player had to complete before he was accepted into the school, which were more mentally grueling than emotional.
His Real Life Teachers Were Hesitant
In the film, the high school's teachers were iffy about accepting Oher into their school. But Oher’s willingness to open up to them and speak from the heart is what ultimately led them to accept him. But the real Oher had to successfully finish several challenging assignments before the school would even admit him and the young man's encouraged spirit had little to do with his acceptance to the school.
Oher Tried Setting the Record Straight
After seeing how the film altered the events of his life, Oher decided to write an autobiography in 2011 called “I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond.” It was his hope that this would clarify some of the mistakes in the film, but some fans of the film still think that the movie was true to life and continue to mistake his hardships for the ones that were shown on the big screen.
The Autobiography Provided More Insight
The autobiography delved deeper into Oher’s personal struggles as a child and fixed any mistakes from the film that fans might have taken at face value. He also provided some more insight into his life as an NFL player, which he felt the film lacked. After all, the film focused heavily on his years at school which comprised a very small part of his career and overall life as a football player.
Leigh Anne Tuohy Was Almost Played by Someone Else
Sandra Bullock’s performance in the film wowed audiences and the film Academy. In fact, the actress won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy. But most people don’t know that Bullock had some initial reservations about taking on the role, and it was very difficult for the people who wrote and produced the movie to even convince her that she would be great for the part.
She Turned the Role Down More Than Once
The studio offered Bullock the role on more than one occasion, but she turned it down more than once because she was anxious about taking on a character who was a devoutly religious Christian woman. She didn't want to alienate audiences by portraying someone with intense and unwavering religious views because she may too get tied to these views, but after meeting the real life Tuohy, Bullock had a change of heart.
Bullock Met the Real Leigh Anne Tuohy
Despite her initial reservations, Bullock agreed to meet with the real Leigh Anne Tuohy, whom she found to be truly inspirational. This changed Bullock’s mind and she decided to accept the role after their initial conversation. But she wasn’t the only actress lined up for the role, and audiences might be surprised at who else was considered, but turned the role down.
Julia Roberts Was Almost Cast as Leigh Anne
Julia Roberts, who is best known for her roles in films like “Steel Magnolias” and “Pretty Woman” was also offered the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy. Fortunately for Bullock, Roberts turned it down. There aren't any clues why she decided she wasn't right for the part, but she probably regrets that decision given that “The Blind Side” was such a hit with both critics and awards shows.
The Role Put Sandra Bullock on the Map
Roberts didn’t feel like she was the right actress for the role, but Bullock did and this made the actress far more successful in her career, as the movie was a major statement on the star's acting abilities and staying power in her film career. But was there anything about Leigh Anne in the film that was accurate? Like many of the other characters in the movie, there were some things that the writers got right and others that they got way wrong.
Leigh Anne Tuohy Was an Interior Designer
Although the film exaggerated a lot of things and got a couple of facts wrong, there was one thing that the film got right. Leigh Anne Tuohy was an interior designer in the film and in real life. Besides the fact that the movie's writers over-exaggerated her role in Oher's career, they did kind of nail her powerful demeanor and caring attitude. But why did the character mention Patrick Ramsey in the film?
Producers Mentioned a Former Famous Quarterback
Patrick Ramsey was a former NFL quarterback who Leigh Anne Tuohy had the pleasure of working with. This wasn’t specified in the film, but the mere mention of the name is something that a hardcore football fan would have picked up while watching the film. And the film certainly did a good job capturing the attention of football fans, many of whom want to know more about the real life people who inspired the story.
The Real Oher is Friends with the Cast
Oher was definitely not fond of the way Hollywood had portrayed his life on the big screen, but he had no quarrel with the actors in the film. In fact, he was friends with many of the cast members, including the man who portrayed him. But he is particularly close to Bullock, who he first met while the movie was being filmed, but he has seen her many times since the production ended.
Bullock is a Big Fan of Oher
Bullock considers herself a big fan of Oher and she has continued to support him throughout his career in the NFL. She even cheered him on from the stands alongside his family while he was in the Super Bowl. And even though the film's writing had a few inaccuracies, the actors who brought the story to life did an outstanding job bringing heart to such a harrowing situation, and Oher is grateful for that.
The Film Didn’t Tell Oher’s Sister’s Story Right
With so many hiccups in the story, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that “The Blind Side” didn’t tell the complete story of Oher’s adoptive sister, Collins Tuohy. In the film, Collins, who was played by Lily Collins, is portrayed as a high school cheerleader, volleyball player, and an overachieving student. But there’s a lot more to her than that and the film definitely left out a few of her other talents.
There Was More to Collins Tuohy
The film didn’t really showcase just how talented Collins Tuohy really was in real life. Not only was the real Collins a state champion pole vaulter, but she later became a college cheerleader at Oher’s alma mater, Ole Miss University. Although her athletic talents were trumped in the film by Oher's accomplishments, her family continues to have immense pride in their daughter, and Collins continues to support Oher's football career.
Oher Didn’t Meet His Dad This Way
In the film, Oher met his future adoptive father, Sean Tuohy, at his future adoptive sister Collin’s volleyball game, in what became quite an emotional moment. Oher’s film counterpart was cleaning up trash in the stands when he met Tuohy. But this scene was embellished for the sake of the film and in real life, the two met in a location that was much different than the one that was shown in the film.
The Real Way Oher Met His Future Dad
Oher claims that he first met Sean Tuohy when his future adoptive father visited him at his school. He was double checking to make sure that the young man’s lunch money was processed so he couldn’t starve at school after his wife witnessed him in the rain. It seemed that from the very moment that the Tuohy family entered Oher's life, they wanted to do everything to make sure that he could succeed and achieve his goals.
Aaron Prepped for the Role
Aaron had a decent build, but he still had a lot of work to do to get in tip top shape to play Oher. So, he decided to train with an actual college football team so he could fit right into the uniform and the role. And the process proved to be grueling, as it would be for anyone, let alone someone who isn't used to getting up at the crack of dawn to train and run and test their body's limits.
His Training on the Field Helped A Lot
Aaron trained with the Yellow Jackets, which was the Georgia Tech University football team for months while the film was in production. This taught him how to feel more comfortable on the playing field when the time came to portray Oher. But there was one institution that didn’t want to be in the film, and it ended up changing the entire script of the movie after its first draft was already written.
Oher’s School Didn’t Want to be Featured
Briarcrest Christian School where the real-life Oher attended classes after being adopted by the Tuohy family, had concerns about being portrayed in “The Blind Side.” They felt that the film could ruin their reputation with future students and shed the school in a negative light. In fact, Briarcrest Christian School officials were upset that the film showed Oher’s teachers dismissing Oher’s academic capabilities.
The Director Did His Best to Represent the School
The film's writers later changed the name of the school in the movie to Wingate Christian School to avoid tarnishing Briarcrest Christian School’s reputation. But director John Lee Hancock made sure to use green to features the original school’s color. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough for the school, who still felt like their legacy was tarnished by the portrayal of Oher's years at the school.
People Started Seeing Oher Differently
Oher noticed that fans started seeing him in a different light after “The Blind Side” premiered and he didn’t like it at all. Before the film, fans saw him as a successful athlete at the NFL level. But now a lot of people just see him as the NFL player Hollywood made a movie of, and this in part has made people downplay just how talented he actually is. And the fact that Oher's hardships were played on screen for millions of people to see didn't have a great effect on him either.
Oher Had Many NFL Successes
The film only focused on how Oher was able to make it into the NFL, but Oher felt that the movie missed showing just how talented he was as an athlete and how his prowess helped the Baltimore Ravens achieve victory at the 2012 Super Bowl. Not only did the movie downplay his success, but they failed to state just how tirelessly Oher continues to train and work to maintain his success in the sport.
The Film Helped Aaron Turn His Life Around
Although Oher wasn’t pleased with the film, Aaron was happy that the film changed his life by turning him into a successful actor who got to fly around on planes and have the opportunity to work in Los Angeles, California. Until the film, he had never even stepped aboard a plane before. And while the film turned his life around, he was very grateful for the people in his life who made the opportunity possible.
Aaron’s Mom Helped Him Land the Role
Aaron might have had Sandra Bullock as an onscreen adoptive mother, but it was his real life mother that helped him land the audition that led to him winning the role. When she saw that Hollywood was looking for someone to play Oher, she knew her son would be a perfect fit so she submitted his name and the rest was history. But there were some struggles that went into doing the role that Aaron had to endure.
Aaron Had to Make a Huge Sacrifice
Aaron put in a lot of hours of intense physical training to become Oher. His journey also included having to lose 100 pounds in a short period of just three months. But while the sacrifice was huge, it was worth it for Aaron to ultimately star in the film and receive praise from audiences all over the world on his role in the film. And the movie also featured some familiar faces that had audiences stunned.
A Country Music Star Played Sean Tuohy
It turns out that Bullock wasn’t the only major celebrity in the film. Country music star Tim McGraw played Sean Tuohy, Oher’s adoptive father. And as mentioned earlier, “Emily in Paris” actress Lily Collins, who is the daughter of Phil Collins, was in “The Blind Side” before she was as instantly recognizable as she is today. But even though the movie had major star power, it still helped the careers of many of the established actors in the cast.
"The Blind Side" Was Bullock’s Big Break
Bullock was already a Hollywood legend after starring in hits like “The Net,” “Speed” with Keanu Reeves and “The Proposal” with Ryan Reynolds. But “The Blind Side” helped the actress break a major record because it was the first film led by a woman to earn more than $200 million at the box office. And Bullock was happy about that because she took a pay cut from her salary to choose to receive a portion of the film's profits instead.
There’s Something Hidden in the Thanksgiving Scene
In the Thanksgiving scene where the Tuohy clan sits at the table to have an incredible meal, there’s a replica of the “Freedom from Want” painting made by painter Norman Rockwell. But the director never acknowledged whether this was intentional or a coincidence. And there were a few other Easter eggs in the film that make it a good choice to rewatch to see what else you can spot.
Real Coaches Appeared in the Film
Ole Miss University coach Houston Nutt, who coached the real Oher, played himself in the film. Ed Orgeron, a popular coach who coached at Ole Miss as well as LSU and USC also appeared in the film alongside another famous coach named Nick Saban. So even though the film stretched the truth quite a bit, at least some real-life sport figures graced the big screen to give their acceptance to the great film.