When “The Blind Side” hit theaters in 2009, it was an instant success. With the star power of Sandra Bullock behind it, it even scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Film. Behind the scenes, however, drama had been brewing all along. For Michael Oher, the true story of his life was much different than what the movie portrayed and he was definitely taken aback by it all. Add in the elevated tensions that come with making a major motion picture, and it was the perfect recipe for drama on the set. Now, it’s time to find out what really happened.
1. Less Than Pleased
The Blind Side ended up being a huge success. Audiences loved it. Critics were generally pleased. The film even garnered plenty of awards and award nominations. Unfortunately, it did not quite satisfy one important person: the man on whom the film was based.
Unfortunately, Michael Oher himself wasn’t impressed with the outcome and portrayal. Even though actor Quinton Aaron played him well and as great as a guardian as actress Sandra Bullock might have seemed onscreen–Oher felt it was a poor representation of his life and went as far to say that the film did more damage than anything else.
2. A Different Personality
If you spent time with the real Michael Oher, you might quickly begin to understand why he was less than enthused with how Quinton Aaron portrayed him on the field. Not that Aaron’s performance was bad, of course; it just was not the real Big Mike.
For instance, the film portrays Michael Oher as being much more reserved, bordering on being a loner. He seems aloof, overly serious, even uptight. But Michael Oher is, in fact, quite the opposite. While he does what he needs to do to excel at his sport, he does it with a smile and a roar of a laugh. In other words, he never takes himself too seriously.
3. Oher’s Life Before the Tuohy Family
The film does not hide that Michael Oher endured a rocky past. It even states outright that he had been homeless and lacked any real family. This, of course, is just the simplified version cut neatly into digestible chunks for a movie that has a lot to cover in a short amount of time.
Oher indeed did have a tough life. His mother neglected him in favor of substance abuse. Meanwhile, his father was sent to prison, where his life unfortunately ended. What’s more, Oher comes from a pretty large family. He is just one of 12 children, none of whom received the support they needed growing up.
4. When Michael Oher Met the Tuohy Family
In the film, the Tuohy family first encounters Michael Oher as a storm-battered boy left out in the rain, his clothes drenched and his body cold. The film would have most believe that that’s how their relationship began, with Oher moving in with them and then life starting fresh and anew. However, it was not quite like that.
While the family did spot Michael Oher at the side of the road, they did not instantly pick him up at that moment. Some time passed, and the next day Leigh Anne Tuohy paid Michael a visit at his new school. After that, the two went shopping for new clothes. In short, the transition was a little more gradual and did not quite happen at the Hollywood pace.
5. Leigh Anne’s Day Job
In real life, Leigh Anne Tuohy worked as an interior designer. If you are particularly observant, you might have noticed that Leigh Anne mentioned Patrick Ramsey in the film. How are these two pieces of information related, you may be wondering?
Interestingly, Leigh Anne Tuohy worked for the Washington Redskins quarterback. Sure, the fact is not mentioned outright in the film, but the reference was not totally pointless. It was just a well-hidden Easter egg intended for only the most devout of football fans to uncover–and by devout, we mean those who are up to date on players’ home improvement strategies.
6. Racial Tension
In the film, race is mentioned a couple times: once by Sean Tuohy when he admits to his disbelief at having a black son, and again when a fellow player mentions it jeeringly to Oher during a game. Overall, though, the whole matter receives only cursory attention.
In real life, there was a lot more at stake for Michael Oher and the Tuohy family. Although the family enjoyed Oher’s presence and found it a pleasure to provide him with a home, Leigh Anne knew that her family might not be so pleased, as they tended to be racist at times. Still, Oher managed to fit in with his adoptive family fairly well, despite their difference.
7. Not All Home Sweet Home
Again, Hollywood embellishment rears its glittering head. In the film, Michael Oher appears to take to the Tuohy family immediately. The Tuohys see him as the perfect son and sibling, and Oher accepts them as the nurturing parents he never had. Sadly, things were not as sunny as the film might have you believe.
Both parties had their doubts. Tension existed between them and likely never broke. Even so, things were far from terrible either. Oher still thinks fondly of his adoptive family. He ended up bonding pretty well with both S.J. and Collins Tuohy. However, it all took time and did not quite happen overnight. Again, that Hollywood illusion of instant perfection can be alluring but deceiving.
8. The True Story Behind His Mentor
In the film, Sandra Bullock plays a nurturing Leigh Ann Tuohy who ultimately instills in Michael an instant love for football. While Tuohy did play a major role in shaping the young football star, he did not gain all his training and all he needed to learn about the game from her.
Michael Oher felt that in an attempt to milk out a touching mentor-and-mentee story, the director left out a lot of background information that would have shed some light on what it really took Oher to achieve what he did. As far as he is concerned, the film glossed over the hard work he himself put into reaching his goals.
9. Sandra Bullock Almost Was Not Leigh Anne Tuohy
One of the best things about The Blind Side is Sandra Bullock’s performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy. After all, she even won an Oscar and Golden Globe for her performance. But even she had her doubts about the part.
Sandra Bullock was offered the part several times but declined because the thought of portraying a pious Christian made her nervous. Bullock thought her mind was made up until she met the real Leigh Anne Tuohy. After that, she finally took the role. But she wasn’t the only choice for the part.
10. Julia Roberts Says No
So, who else exactly was a possible contender for the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy? Julia Roberts was offered the part, which of course would have been a sweet deal, given the film’s eventual success.
However, Julia Roberts turned the part down, feeling it was not right for her. Sandra Bullock took her place in the end, giving an exemplary performance that would reshape her career for the better–as will be even more evident further along in this list.
11. Just Years Apart
Most people who fell in love with the film and who were reasonably-devout football fans can see how Quinton Aaron might pass as as the football legend Michael Oher. They have the same build, after all, and stand pretty close in height. However, there is a small thing that separates the two.
Quinton Aaron is actually slightly older than Michael Oher. His birth year is 1984, whereas Michael Oher was born in 1986. Still, the ages match up close enough for the difference to matter very little, right? Quinton Aaron still makes one fine Michael Oher!
12. Famous Friends
Although Michael Oher was not a fan of the film overall, he appears to harbor no ill feelings toward the actors and actresses who helped bring his story to life. In fact, one actress still plays quite the role in the football star’s life: none other than Sandra Bullock herself.
She not only checks in on Oher from time to time, but also the entire Tuohy family. She also is incredibly enthusiastic about Michael Oher’s progress as an athlete and cheers him on whenever she has the opportunity. In fact, she can be found at many Super Bowl games sitting in the bleachers alongside his family, hoping to see him triumph.
13. From Security Guard to Hollywood Actor
You would be hard pressed to find a fan of the film who was not moved by Quinton Aaron’s stunning performance as Michael Oher himself. Believe or not, this was his first lead role and he had only dabbled in acting with small parts before The Blind Side.
Aaron was actually working as a security guard at the time he was cast, which is not hard to believe given his strength and stature. He did not expect to land the role when he auditioned and on his way out, gave his business card to director John Lee Hancock, offering to provide security services on the set during filming. Little did he know he would enjoy the spotlight after all.
14. More Concerns from Oher Himself
To this day, Michael Oher is not a huge fan of the film. It is not just because of how the film ended up portraying him as a person and as a football player. It is also because of how people perceive him today.
Oher laments that few people see him as he wants to be seen: a serious athlete who came a long way to achieve what he once thought was an unreachable dream. To his dismay, he feels that too many view him as that player who had a movie made about him.
15. Michael’s Time at Briarcrest Christian School
If you thought Michael Oher’s transition to Briarcrest Christian School was a bit too Hollywood-perfect, you were right. Like other parts of the film, actual events were embellished to evoke a greater emotional response from the audience.
In the film, the reluctant teachers instantly change their mind about allowing Oher in when they witness how he manages to open up to them. Beyond this, Oher’s coach manages to give a convincing, poignant speech to sway the authorities in Oher’s favor. In real life, though, it was a little more complicated than that. His coach did advocate for him, yes, but he had to complete some rigorous academic assignments before he could be officially admitted. How else did this movie veer from reality?
16. The Truth Comes Out
Michael Oher did everything possible to correct the errors that were made in the film. To do this, in 2011 he penned an autobiography titled I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond.
In it, he gives a more thorough look into his childhood and corrected any misconceptions the film made about him. He also expanded upon a number of stories he felt the film left unresolved and provided much more information than the movie ever could.
17. The Real Collins Tuohy
One character fans of the film loved was Michael’s lovely sister Collins Tuohy, portrayed by actress Lily Collins. The film portrays her to be quite the high achiever herself as a cheerleader and a member of the volleyball team.
As it turns out, Collins Tuohy was, in fact, quite talented in several areas. Not only did she end up becoming a cheerleader at Ole Miss, she also was a state champion in the sport of pole-vaulting while in high school. Like her adoptive brother, she went on to attend Ole Miss.
18. When Michael Met Sean
As is becoming clear, what we see on the screen is not always what really happened. One such scene involves the moment Sean Tuohy meets Michael Oher. As moving as this scene might have been, it too underwent heavy creative tweaking.
In the film, Tuohy first meets Oher unexpectedly at one of Collins’ volleyball games. At the game, Oher is cleaning up the debris left behind by hungry spectators. In reality, Tuohy first visited Oher at his school. He dropped in to make sure that Oher’s lunch money had processed, in order to ensure that Oher would not go hungry at school.
19. Mighty Preparation for a Mighty Role
As tough as Quinton Aaron was at the time, there was still plenty of work to do to get him to the top of his physical game. To do this, he trained with a real, top-notch college football team in order to really get into the role.
The football team at Georgia Tech welcomed Quinton Aaron aboard so that he could train for the role. For this incredible role, getting to know the field was as important as knowing the fellow actors and actresses.
20. Doubts from Briarcrest
Authorities at Briarcrest Christian School were less than enthused about the name of the school being used in the film. Even though, the name of the school in the movie was changed Wingate Christian School, they worried that the movie would still sour the school’s reputation because the teachers were shown to dismiss Michael Oher’s academic abilities in the film.
As fans know, the school was still represented fully in the film. Director John Lee Hancock was even sure to remember one subtle detail: the school’s color, green, prominently displayed throughout the film. In the end, the film did not dishonor the school in any way and simply relayed information vital to the plot’s progression.
21. Firsts for Quinton Aaron
Playing Michael Oher ended up introducing the starry-eyed Quinton Aaron to a life he never knew before. Not only would he play the leading role in an Oscar-nominated film, he would enjoy the glitzy life that came with such an honor.
Before he accepted the role, Quinton Aaron had never flown on an airplane in his life. He would get to experience that when he returned for the second audition for the part. At that time, he would get to experience another first: visiting the sparkling city of Los Angeles.
22. Pushed Along
Supportive parents can be a real blessing. Quinton Aaron learned that quickly, as he might not have even gotten the chance to try out for the part as Michael Oher if it had not been for his doting mother.
Aaron’s mother saw the call for the role and instantly thought of her very own son. She read the description of what they were looking for, noted the towering size requirement, and knew instantly that the part was made for Aaron. Thus, she submitted his name for him, hoping that good news would come to her and her son.
23. Determined to Make It Work
Intense training, lots of practice, and more. That is what it took Quinton Aaron to ready himself to play a convincing Michael Oher on the big screen. But what exactly did “more” entail?
The young actor soon found himself embarking on a weight loss journey. In total, he lost 100 pounds in order to get in shape for the role. But Aaron considered that a small price to pay for such a great opportunity. In fact, he said he would have “done anything” to prove he was still fit for the part. Thus, he shed a significant portion of his body weight over the course of just three months.
24. Sean Tuohy
To some, Sean Tuohy in the movie might look pretty familiar — especially if those people are fans of country music. That is because the actor portraying him is none other than the country music sensation Tim McGraw. Who knew that he had a flair for acting as well?
As it turns out, Tim McGraw is not the only musical soul on set. You probably recognized another famous last name from the music world: Lily Collins. That is because Lily Collins is actually Phil Collins’s daughter–yes, Genesis’ Phil Collins, by the way.
25. Sandra Bullock’s Biggest Break Yet
Sandra Bullock was no nobody when she appeared in The Blind Side. The actress already had plenty of credits to her name. She had starred in Speed alongside Keanu Reeves. In fact, she starred in another fairly-commercially-successful film the same year The Blind Side hit theaters: a rom-com entitled The Proposal.
But The Blind Side brought Sandra Bullock more than just an overwhelming amount of critical acclaim and some major awards. She also got to see a record be broken. For the first time ever, an actress would have the spotlight to herself. Bullock’s name was the only woman’s name legible above the film’s title, and the film grossed over $200 million at the box office.
26. A Legacy for a Champion
Many people enjoyed The Blind Side, from the casual moviegoing public to even the most serious of critics. The film not only made a name for itself at prestigious award events like the Golden Globes and the Oscars. And not only was the film a major milestone in Sandra Bullock’s career. It also broke a significant record at the box office.
The Blind Side came into existence on a relatively modest budget of just under $30 million. It ended up bringing in way more than that: a staggering $309.2 million, to be exact. As a result of its enormous profit, the film has gone on to claim the title as the highest grossing sports film of all time.
27. Picture Perfect
One of the most memorable moments of the film is the Thanksgiving scene. The Tuohy family gather at a crowded table in a warm house to share an abundant meal. Everything appears to be ideal, right down to the turkey bronzed in soft glow. If you look closer, you might notice something.
Well, at least, the art buffs were quick to notice this subtle detail. When Leigh Anne went to set down the turkey, the scene suddenly transformed into a replica of the famous painting by Norman Rockwell entitled “Freedom from Want.” This may or may not have been intentional. In any case, the nice moment definitely captured the palpable moment of family togetherness.
28. Devoted to Good Ol’ Ole Miss
The Ole Miss spirit is alive and well in this film, of course. After all, the University of Mississippi happens to be the alma mater of Collins Tuohy, Michael Oher, and Leigh Anne Tuohy. Any college football family would envy such a proud lineage.
As it happens, though, this is not the first time Sandra Bullock portrayed an Ole Miss alumni. In 1996, the illustrious actress starred in the well-received drama A Time To Kill. Her character, Ellen Roark, a passionate law student, had also attended Ole Miss as an undergraduate student.
29. The Book that Inspired It All
It’s pretty safe to say that Quinton Aaron does an excellent job portraying “Big Mike”, but what was real, and what was fiction? Much of the film was inspired by a book written by Michael Lewis, entitled The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
Michael was only one part of the book’s storyline. The written version of The Blind Side actually told the story of the lives and careers of someone other than Michael Oher. It also chronicled the life of Lawrence Taylor, who played for the New York Giants from 1981 to 1993.
30. Close to Reality
Sport fans definitely noticed familiar faces in the movie, especially regarding the coaches. That’s because many of the coaches portrayed are actual current or past football coaches. For example, Houston Nutt plays the coach for the University of Mississippi in the movie. In reality, he used to be the coach for the University of Arkansas.
Other examples include Ed Orgeron, who now coaches the Louisiana State University team after a long stint at Ole Miss. Another coach in the film was Phillip Fulmer, who once served as football coach for the University of Tennessee.
31. Memphis in Georgia?
As fans of the movie know, the film takes place in Memphis, Tenn. It is also where the real life story of Michael Oher took place and in the movie, Leigh Anne says , “I have been in Memphis my whole life.” But viewers with a careful eye might have noticed something else in the background.
In one of the scenes, Leigh Anne and Michael walk past a sign that says “Georgia Lottery PLAY HERE” while at the Big and Tall store. Strange…Memphis is definitely not in Georgia! It turns out that the movie was filmed in Atlanta Georgia.
32. Pay Day
Sandra Bullock was at first extremely hesitant to take on the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy, for religious reasons. However, once she met the real-life woman, Bullock wanted the role so bad that she even agreed to a pay cut to play the role.
Apparently, Sandra Bullock (and likely most Hollywood stars) ask for a set fee to star in a film, which this film couldn’t offer. The alternative was to offer her a percentage of the profits. She agreed and it turned out to be quite profitable since the film earned $309.2 million in theaters.
33. Football Fandom
The Blind Side is filled with plenty of special cameos and one fascinating person that made an appearance was Michael Oher’s real-life high school football coach from Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Hugh Freeze. Where can you spot him in the movie?
His time to shine on the big screen happens when he plays a University of Arkansas assistant, standing behind the real-life Arkansas Razorbacks coach, Houston Nutt. At the time, Freeze was no longer the Briarcrest coach but had moved on to Tennessee’s Lambuth University, where he served as the head coach of the football team until switching to Arkansas State in 2010.
34. Wonderbar Blind Side
Before a film is released, it is often only known by its working title. Sometimes this working title is also used when copies of the movie are sent to theaters. Apparently, this is done in order to disguise the identities of highly-anticipated movies.
In the case of The Blind Side, movie theaters didn’t know it by its current title. Rather, the 35mm print was given the very vague title of Wonderbar. The word “wunderbar” in German means “wonderful” in English. Were they already anticipating the film’s success?
35. Family Cameo
Actual people involved in the story of Michael Oher made several cameos in The Blind Side and in one case, it was made by one of the real members of the Tuohy family. The cameo wasn’t big but it is definitely interesting.
In the movie, during a scene showing the first game, the real S.J. Tuohy is spotted right next to Tim McGraw, who was playing S.J.’s father, Sean Tuohy. After high school, the now-24-year-old S.J. went on to study and play football at Loyola University in Baltimore and is currently a football coach at Southern Methodist University.
36. Waterloo Whoops!
In The Blind Side, Michael Oher is told he must improve his grades and academic level in order to be accepted to the fictional Wingate Christian School. In one of the scenes, Michael is shown taking a history test, but something is very odd.
In this scene, the camera shows a question about the Battle of Waterloo and where it happened. At the top of the page, it is clear to see that Michael answered that it took place in Germany and the teacher marked this answer as the correct one. In reality, it took place in what was then The Netherlands and now Belgium.
37. Timeline Troubles
When a movie is filmed so soon after something takes place, it may seem that everything has stayed the same in the world. For that reason, a few details managed to get overlooked. One example was in the scene at the recruiting office.
During this scene, Tom Lemming is given a DVD of Michael Oher, which is resting atop a magazine with football player Bryce Brown on the cover, showing him playing in the Army All-American game of 2009. However, The Blind Side takes place in 2003 and 2004 and back then, Bryce Brown was only 12 and 13.
38. Date Discrepencies
A few more time discrepancies are in the film, aside from the one involving Bryce Brown. As mentioned, the movie is set in 2003 and 2004 and some things were not available then. For example, in the movie, Sean Tuohy is shown using the Safari browser on a Windows operating system. However, this only became available in 2007.
Another example is with the particular type of car that Leigh Anne Tuohy drives, a BMW 750LI, which only came out in 2006. Making the discrepancy even more apparent is that this car model underwent a facelift in 2006 and looked quite different from the versions available in 2003 and 2004.
39. No Privacy
Viewers with knowledge of privacy laws probably noticed something a bit strange in The Blind Side. Leigh Anne, who had not legally adopted Michael Oher yet, was given access to his files at his school in order to monitor his progress.
In real life, a student’s files are considered confidential and only legal guardians or those with power of attorney are provided access to these. Nonetheless, we see the social worker at Wingate Christian School providing Leigh Anne with all this information.
40. Southern Charmers
The Blind Side is not just a sports film. It’s also a very Southern film! It turns out that the film’s stars actually are southerners themselves. Sandra Bullock, who played Leigh Anne Tuohy, was born in Virginia and went to high school there (her family spent 12 years in Germany in between). She went to East Carolina University in North Carolina.
Meanwhile, playing Sandra Bullock’s on-screen husband was Tim McGraw. He was born and raised in Louisiana and is best known for being one of the biggest musicians in Country music. He has released 14 albums and 10 of those have reached the No. 1 spot on the Country music charts.
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