NFL Legend Michael Oher Reveals the True Story Behind The Blind Side

A Cinematic Success Based on a Real-Life Hero

The Blind Side was one of the biggest films of the 2000s. Released in theaters in 2009 and based on a 2006 book of the same name, the film followed the story of Michael Oher, a football lineman who came from humble beginnings to play in the NFL with the aid of his adoptive parents.

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The movie, which was based on Oher’s real life, was beloved by critics and audiences alike. It earned an Oscar nomination for best film and made millions at the box office. However, the man who made it all possible, Michael Oher himself, is not a big fan of the film.

Oher Had Problems with the Picture Right Away

While audiences around the world were falling in love with The Blind Side and feeling the emotional effects of Sandra Bullock’s starring role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, Michael Oher wasn’t having such positive thoughts. In fact, he wasn’t happy with the way the film turned out at all.

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When asked for his view of the movie, Oher said it wasn’t as realistic as it claimed to be. He argued that certain events had been depicted in an inauthentic way, and certain truths had been changed. In the end, he felt it did his life and legacy more harm than good.

A Very Difficult Beginning

So what were some of the things the film changed about Oher’s story? Well, the film puts a lot of focus on Oher’s adoption by the Tuohy family, but it doesn’t make much mention of his life before he met his adoptive parents.

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In reality, Oher was one of 12 children born to a mother with cocaine and alcohol addiction. His father was in and out of prison, and Oher received little love or attention. He struggled to fit in and attended 11 schools as a child. He had a very harsh start to life.

Meeting the Tuohy Family

Another big difference between the movie and reality is the way Michael met the Tuohy family and was adopted by them. In the film, we see quite a dramatic and emotional scene with the family finding Michael cold and shivering in the rain and deciding to take him in.

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In reality, the adoption process was far more gradual. Leigh Anne Tuohy actually met Michael at his school where her own biological son and daughter attended. She got to know him over time, helping him out by buying him clothes and learning about his story before eventually adopting him.

A Totally Different Personality

One of the biggest problems Oher had with the film is that his portrayal on screen is totally different than how he is in reality. In the real world, Oher is a man with a big character, a loud laugh, and a great sense of humor.

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However, on the big screen in The Blind Side, he was portrayed as shy, timid, and anxious, always needing to be helped and guided. In a way, the Oher we see on screen is someone who waits around for things to happen, whereas real-life Oher is a go-getting, action-oriented sort of person.

The Football Link

In real life, Leigh Ann Tuohy works as an interior designer, and she’s had some pretty famous clients over the years. In fact, she even did some design work for Patrick Ramsey, the former NFL quarterback who played for teams in Washington DC, Florida, and New York.

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In the film, this part of Leigh Anne’s life isn’t really talked about. However, there is a very brief mention of it when Sandra Bullock’s character mentions Patrick Ramsey. It’s possible that this was done as a little wink for fans who would understand the reference.

Coping with Racial Bigotry

In The Blind Side, there isn’t much attention paid to any racism or prejudice that Michael suffered. But in reality, he had to deal with some bigoted opinions and cruel comments, especially in high school where he was one of only a few black students.

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At his school, Michael had to deal with classmates judging him and being mean to him. The Tuohy family also experienced judgment since they were a predominantly white family with a black adopted son. Fortunately, in spite of the adversity, they all made it through.

It Took Some Time

Adopted children or children in foster care rarely trust their new families right away. They often have trust issues due to their own personal histories, and it can take time for bonds to form between them and their adoptive parents and siblings. It was the same way for Michael Oher.

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When Michael first arrived at the Tuohy family’s home, he needed some time to get to know them and find out what kind of people they really were before he was ready to let his guard down. In the film, however, Michael seems to bond with the Tuohys and trust them right away.

He Was Already a Great Player

In the film, it seems at first that Michael isn’t much of a football lover or player, relying on Leigh Anne Tuohy to train him and guide him. That is a big part of the film’s story, but it’s totally at odds with reality.

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In real life, Leigh Anne did indeed help Michael get better, but he was already a great player. He’d played football in high school and had been named Lineman of the Year in 2003, a full year before he moved in with the Tuohy family.

Sandra Bullock Nearly Said No

There are many stories throughout history of actors turning down roles in films that went on to become extremely successful. That nearly happened to Sandra Bullock with The Blind Side. She was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to accurately portray such a religious character as Leigh Ann Tuohy.

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Fortunately, in the end, after speaking with the real Leigh Anne and getting a feel for what sort of person she was, Sandra Bullock changed her mind. It’s fortunate that she did. She went on to accomplish one of her best performances and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her part in the movie.

Julia Roberts Was Offered the Role

Interestingly, the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy was nearly played by another A-list actress—Julia Roberts. Famous for her performances in Notting Hill and Erin Brockovich, Roberts was offered the role but turned it down. She said it didn’t feel like a good fit for her.

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Roberts’ decision helped pave the way for Sandra Bullock to step into the spotlight and win her Oscar. But it’s interesting to think about how the film might have been different with Roberts in the starring role.

A Slight Age Gap

Many fans of The Blind Side agree that one of the best aspects of the film is Quinton Aaron’s performance in the role of Michael Oher. Since Oher is such a physically imposing guy, the casting team needed to choose someone who would fit the role physically and deliver an emotional performance.

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It’s fair to say that Aaron did an amazing job, but there was a slight age issue. Even though Aaron and Oher have similar builds, Aaron is two years older than Oher, so he wasn’t technically the right age for the part. Luckily, the age gap isn’t too noticeable.

Making New Friends

Even though Michael Oher isn’t a huge fan of the film version of his story, he has no ill feelings toward the people who worked on it. In fact, he’s actually made some new friends, including the movie’s leading lady, Sandra Bullock herself.

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Bullock has actually become great friends with the whole Tuohy family since filming wrapped on The Blind Side. She’s even been spotted sitting beside Leigh Ann at NFL games, cheering on Big Mike from the sidelines. It’s heartwarming to know that she formed real connections with the people whose story she helped portray.

It Was Aaron’s First Leading Role

Quinton Aaron’s performance in The Blind Side is, without a doubt, one of the movie’s strong points. Aaron fills Oher’s shoes perfectly and deserves all the plaudits and acclaim he has since received. But would you believe it was his first big acting gig?

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Indeed, before The Blind Side, Aaron was working as a security guard. He auditioned for the movie but doubted he would get the part. Before leaving the audition, he handed the director his card and said he’d be happy to accept a job working security on set if needed.

Oher Feels His Legacy Has Been Tarnished

Sadly, Michael Oher’s issues with the movie are more serious than a few goofs and story changes. He also feels the film has tarnished his own legacy and reputation as a professional athlete.

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Since The Blind Side was made, Oher feels like he has become “a guy who had a movie made about him” rather than a successful NFL athlete. He says people don’t seem to regard him these days as a serious football player and fail to acknowledge the hard work he’s put in over the years.

Getting into School

In The Blind Side, Michael Oher is first denied entry to Briarcrest Christian School but later allowed in after he opens up to the staff emotionally. In real life, that is not at all how it happened, and Oher had to work hard to get into the school.

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The headmaster of the school said he’d only accept Oher if he could complete a full home study program. Oher actually did not manage to complete the program, but the headmaster let him in anyway after seeing the efforts he had made.

Sharing His True Story

It’s clear to see that Michael Oher was unhappy with how his life was portrayed in The Blind Side, but he didn’t just sit around and moan about it. Instead, he decided to take action and set the record straight once and for all.

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To do that, he decided to write his own autobiography. He called it I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side, and Beyond. The book was a best-seller and received positive reviews. It also allowed Oher’s fans to see the real story of his childhood and life.

A Super Sister

One of the most popular characters in The Blind Side is Michael’s adoptive sister, Collins Tuohy. Played by Lily Collins in the film, she stands out for her upbeat attitude and wide range of talents, from cheerleading to volleyball.

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So is she like that in real life? In fact, she’s even better! The real Collins Tuohy became a state champion in pole vaulting during her high school years and then got a cheerleading scholarship to the University of Mississippi.

The First Meeting with Sean

One of the biggest inaccuracies in The Blind Side is when Michael Oher first meets Sean Tuohy, who would become his adoptive father. In the film, Sean and Michael meet after a volleyball game where Sean spots Michael picking up some food left behind by the crowd.

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In reality, Sean met Michael after his wife had already started helping him out. He went to school one day to ensure that Michael had enough lunch money to get himself some food. So in a way, the movie scene had a similar theme but wasn’t quite how the meeting actually happened.

Some Hardcore Training

Quinton Aaron is clearly a big, strong guy. However, he isn’t a professional athlete, and the filmmakers quickly saw that he wasn’t quite athletic enough to cope with the movie’s intense shooting schedule and some of the more physical scenes. So they sent him off for some serious training!

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Aaron actually joined the Georgia Tech football team to train with them for a few months. It was a very intense workout routine for the young actor, but it was very beneficial. Aaron became more fit, but the training also taught him more about the game of football.

The School Staff Were Worried

Before The Blind Side came out, Michael Oher was worried how his story might be portrayed on the big screen. He wasn’t the only one! The staff at Briarcrest Christian School where Michael attended was also getting concerned in the build-up to the film’s release.

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The staff worried about how their school might be shown in the movie, fearing that it could be given a bad image. They demanded that the name of the school be excluded from the film, so it was changed from Briarcrest to Wingate.

His First Flight

The Blind Side was full of big firsts for Quinton Aaron. It was his first leading role in a major motion picture, and it was the first time he’d been sent to a football training camp to toughen up for the role.

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Quinton also had his first experience with air travel while preparing for The Blind Side. When asked to attend a second audition in Los Angeles, he got to fly for the first time in his life.

Two Helpful Moms

A big part of Michael Oher’s story is his close relationship with his adoptive mom, Leigh Anne, who helped him become the star he was always destined to be. And it’s very interesting that the man who played him, Quinton Aaron, also has a helpful and encouraging mother.

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It was actually Quinton’s mom who pushed him to audition for the part of Oher in The Blind Side. She heard about an open call for the movie and realized that her son had just the right look and build to fit the part, so she told him to give it a try.

Losing Some Serious Weight

When Quinton Aaron first got the part, he wasn’t quite in the right shape to play Michael Oher. Not only did he need to toughen up on the football field but he also needed to lose weight. He was about 100 pounds heavier than Oher.

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Losing 100 pounds is not an easy feat, but it didn’t faze Quinton. He was ready to do whatever it took to get that role and live out his dream of acting. So he spent three long, hard months training with all his might to shed the pounds.

A Couple of Music Legends

There were some very interesting cast members featured in The Blind Side. The person playing Sean Tuohy, for example, was none other than Tim McGraw, who is well-known to music fans as one of the biggest and best-loved country music stars of all time.

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McGraw wasn’t the only music-related performer in The Blind Side. Lily Collins, who played the part of Collins Tuohy, is the daughter of Phil Collins, one of the most famous rock musicians and singer-songwriters of our time.

A Game Changer for Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock was a big actress at the time The Blind Side came out, well-known for appearing in a lot of successful movies, especially romantic comedies. However, The Blind Side was a real turning point in her career, cementing her as a serious actress who could win the biggest and best awards.

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Her Academy Award for Best Actress was a huge milestone achievement for her. She also set a record as the first female actress to have her name listed at the top of the posters for a film that grossed more than $200 million.

A Commercial Triumph

A lot of money goes into modern Hollywood movies, with tens of millions of dollars used to make them. In order for a film to be successful, it needs to earn that money back, and then some, at the box office. The Blind Side managed to blow away all those expectations.

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It cost $30 million to make The Blind Side, and at the box office, the film managed to earn more than $300 million. In other words, it earned 10 times the amount it cost to film it, making it one of the most successful pictures ever created.

Blink and You’ll Miss It

Even if you’ve watched The Blind Side a dozen times, there is one very precise moment in the film you may have missed if you weren’t paying very close attention. That special moment occurs when the Tuohy family sits down for Thanksgiving dinner.

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For a brief instant, just as Leigh Anne is getting ready to put the turkey on the table, the film recreates the Norman Rockwell painting Freedom from Want. It’s a clever artistic moment, but many fans of the film have simply blinked and missed it.

A College Connection

One of the most emotional moments in The Blind Side is when Michael Oher announces he’ll be enrolling at the University of Mississippi, otherwise known as Ole Miss. He does that because his adoptive parents, Sean and Leigh Anne, also went to Ole Miss, and he wants to follow in the family’s footsteps.

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This is based on reality. Sean, Leigh Ann, and Michael all went to Ole Miss. It’s also interesting to note that Sandra Bullock also had a history with the college. She didn’t go there, but she played a former Ole Miss student in the film A Time to Kill.

Based on a Book

It’s important to remember that The Blind Side was based on a book written by Michael Lewis called The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. The book was published in September 2006 and focuses on two main storylines.

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One of the storylines is, of course, about Michael Oher. The other storyline is about Lawrence Taylor, an NFL linebacker whose style of play helped change the role of linebackers into the modern era of American football.

Sporting Heroes on the Sidelines

Seasoned sports fans may have spotted a few familiar faces while watching The Blind Side. That is because the film featured several real-life coaches and recruiters from the world of college football in small roles and cameo parts, but you may have to look closely to spot them all!

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For example, the Ole Miss coach in The Blind Side is played by Houston Nutt, former coach of the University of Arkansas. Other coaches who appear in the film include Phillip Fulmer, Lou Holtz, Tom Lemming, Ed Orgeron, Franklin “Pepper” Rodgers, Nick Saban, and Tommy Tuberville.

A Little Location Goof

The Blind Side is set in Memphis, Tennessee. There are several references to the city of Memphis in the film, and it’s clear that the Tuohy family is proud and happy to live in such a great place. However, shooting for the film occurred in a totally different location.

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The Blind Side was actually shot in Atlanta, Georgia. The filmmakers did a great job of hiding the fact that they were in Georgia, but in one scene, when Leigh Anne and Michael are shopping for clothes, we see a Georgia Lottery sign in the background for a brief moment.

Sandra Bullock Took a Pay Cut

It’s no secret that leading ladies such as Sandra Bullock get paid huge sums of money for the work they do. In fact, stars of Bullock’s caliber can receive millions of dollars to shoot a big picture like The Blind Side.

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However, Sandra Bullock actually accepted a pay cut for this film. She was so determined to be involved that she agreed to work for less than her expected rate and take a percentage of the film’s profits instead. That worked out pretty well for her in the end.

A Very Special Cameo

Michael Oher may not have been completely pleased with how The Blind Side turned out, but he was presumably quite happy to see one special person from his past in a cameo role. That person was Hugh Freeze, Oher’s real-life high school football coach.

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Freeze was the one who submitted Oher’s application to attend Briarcrest Christian School to the school’s headmaster. He played a huge part in helping Oher meet his adoptive family and become the man he was destined to be. He can be seen on screen for just a brief moment standing beside Houston Nutt.

A Weird Working Title

A lot of films have working titles before they are officially released. That basically means they are given temporary titles that are eventually changed. The Blind Side had quite an unusual working title: Wonderbar.

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The working title seems to be derived from the German word wunderbar, which means “wonderful” in English. There are a few theories about why this name was chosen. One rumor is that it was selected in honor of Sandra Bullock’s German roots.

Sean Jr. in Real Life

Fans of The Blind Side already know what happened to Michael Oher after the film’s story ended, but you might be curious to learn more about other members of the family—like Sean Jr., for example. What is he up to these days?

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Well, the real Sean Jr. actually got a cameo role in the film and can briefly be spotted sitting next to Tim McGraw, the actor who played his dad on the big screen. After leaving high school, Sean Jr. played football at the University of Baltimore and is now working as a football coach.

A Very Lenient Examiner

There are always a few goofs or mistakes in films, but they’re usually very minor and hard to spot. Still, ardent movie fans love to watch and rewatch their favorite films in search of these little errors, and they found quite a funny one in The Blind Side.

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In one sequence, Michael Oher is taking an exam. As the camera pans overhead, we see a question about the location of the Battle of Waterloo. Oher wrote that it took place in Germany, and the question is marked as correct, but the battle actually happened in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Another Little Goof

The issue with the Battle of Waterloo isn’t the only little goof you can spot in The Blind Side if you look closely enough. There’s also a problem that can be spotted during a scene in the recruiter’s office.

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In that scene, there is a magazine with a picture of Bryce Brown on the cover playing an All-American football game. That game actually took place in 2009, several years after The Blind Side setting in 2003. Brown was only 12 at the time The Blind Side story took place.

Problems with Time

The magazine cover is just one of many issues the film had in terms of making it seem like it’s actually 2003. There are several other little things we notice characters using in the film that didn’t exist at the time it was set.

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For example, Sean is seen using the Safari Internet browser on a Windows device, but that wasn’t possible until 2007. In addition, Leigh Anne drives a BMW 750LI, but that particular model of car didn’t come out until 2006, three years after the film’s story occurs.

A Legal Dispute

If you’re not familiar with the various legal ins and outs of the adoption process in the United States, you might not notice that there is something seriously wrong with the way it is depicted in The Blind Side.

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At one point, Leigh Anne is given access to Michael’s school files to keep track of how he’s doing, despite not being his adoptive parent at the time. In reality, that simply isn’t possible since a student’s school record is considered confidential and can only be given to legal guardians or parents.

True Southern Stars

It’s no secret that The Blind Side is proud of its Southern setting and style. The film makes repeated mentions of Memphis and paints a pretty picture of the South in general, with friendly people and a great sense of spirit.

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It’s interesting to note that the film’s stars were also Southern born. Sandra Bullock, for example, was born in Virginia and attended high school there, while Tim McGraw was born in Louisiana and is well-known for his Southern country music style.