The success of the movie The Blind Side is well-known, but its many making-of stories are not. Read on to get all of the behind the scenes facts about the film that touched millions of hearts. They are sure to make you turn in your seats.
One part of the film that was accurate was Oher’s tough past. It tells the audience that he was homeless and never had a real family, both of which are true.
Oher’s mother drank excessively and took illegal substances and ultimately neglected her son. His father was in jail until another prisoner took his life. Oher does indeed come from a big family, just like the movie suggests, and has 11 brothers and sisters.
Meeting the Tuohy’s
In The Blind Side, the Tuohy family meets Oher on the side of the road, drenched from the pouring rain and all alone. We assume that the family immediately took him in.
The Tuohy’s did find Oher on the side of the road, but they did not pick him up and welcome him into their house just like that. In fact, it wasn’t until the following day when Leigh Anne Tuohy went to Oher’s school. After that visit, she took him shopping to buy new clothes.
The true story
Not only did Oher speak out against The Blind Side, he also acted on it by making his own account of his story. Shortly after The Blind Side was released, Oher wrote an autobiography called I Beat the Odds.
In it, Oher gives his more accurate version of his life and even corrects misconceptions that the film made up about him. He also added several stories from his life that weren’t even mentioned in the film.
Tension in the air
Another part of the film that was not completely accurate was how Oher seems to get along with the Tuohy family right away.
In the movie, they see him as the perfect addition to their family and Oher accepts them as his own loving family that he never had. Of course, Hollywood may have buttered that part up a bit. In reality, it took a long time for both the Tuohy family and Michael to bond.
Tough academic transition
It wasn’t only the transition into his new home that Hollywood perfected, but also Oher’s transition into Birarcrest Christian School. In the film, teachers who were at first reluctant were instantly approving of Oher after he opened up to them.
Oher’s coach also gives a dramatic speech in order to persuade the authorities to admit Oher. In reality, Oher’s coach did step up for him, but Oher had to complete many difficult academic tests before he was officially admitted into the school.
Meeting his adoptive father
According to the real Mike’s account of the events, however, he first officially met his adoptive father after Tuohy drove to his school to check in on him and make sure that his lunch money had processed. Quite a departure, no?
Not just a mentee
A favorite character in The Blind Side is Leigh Ann Tuohy, who was played by Sandra Bullock. In the film, Mrs. Tuohy is portrayed as the one who instilled the love of football in Michael.
She certainly played a huge part of mentoring the football star, but he needed a lot more than her mentorship to get to where he is today. This slight embellishment made Oher very upset, he thought that Hollywood was only trying to make a mentor helps mentee type of story.
While the Oscar-winning film did portray some of the racial tension that Oher had to push through and – eventually – overcome with his family, it did not quite show the full picture of how things truly went down in real life.
Leigh Anne admitted that although the Tuohy family loved Oher’s company, she knew that her family might not be so thrilled at the idea of him living with them permanently. Besides the initial tension, Oher fit in very well with his new adoptive family.
Michael’s talented sister
One character from the movie that was pretty much accurate her portrayal, as opposed to who she was in real life, was Michael’s sister, Collins Tuohy. Played in the movie by Lily Collins, she’s portrayed as an over-achiever and grade A student.
It turns out that Tuohy is indeed a very talented girl. She was very involved in sports throughout high school and college. In high school she was a state champion in pole-vaulting. Just like her brother, she attended Ole Miss where she became a cheerleader.
Mrs. Tuohy’s real job
The movie wasn’t lying to us – Leigh Anne really did work as an interior designer. You may have noticed in the film, in fact, that Leigh mentioned the football quarterback Patrick Ramsey.
This is because in real life Tuohy actually worked for the aforementioned quarterback, and helped design the inside of his home. Of course only the most dedicated football fans got the connection, but it still made for a fun little hidden easter egg that was certainly based on reality.
Dedicated to Ole Miss
The spirit of Ole Miss is quite alive throughout the film, which makes sense considering Collins, Michael and Leigh are all alumni of the university.
Surprisingly, this is not the first time Sandra Bullock played an Ole Miss Alum on the big screen. In 1996, Bullock played a law student and Ole Miss student in the drama A Time to Kill. While Bullock isn’t a true Ole Miss alum, she might as well be treated like one!
Part of the family
Even though Oher was not a big fan of the film, he still respected all the actors and actresses who worked hard to make his story come to life. Oher actually kept a good relationship with the sweet Sandra Bullock herself. She stays in touch with him and the whole Tuohy family.
Bullock, just like the character she played in the film, is one of Oher’s biggest fans and goes to his games to cheer him on whenever she can. You could find Bullock in the bleachers of many Super Bowl games next to the whole Tuohy family.
If you aren’t an avid football fan you may not have recognized many of the actors who played the coaches. This is probably because most of the coaches in the film were actually real coaches playing themselves.
Many of them did however represent their former teams instead of their current team. For example, Houston Nutt is currently working for CBS sports, but he used to coach Arkansas. Phillip Fulmer coached for Tennessee but is now retired from coaching.
Disagreement with Briarcrest
Briarcrest Christian School was not so pleased that the school’s actual name was used in the film. The school’s administrators, in fact, thought the film would give them a poor reputation since the teachers didn’t seem to accept Oher right away.
The film’s director, John Lee Hancock, kept the name in the film along with certain small details of the school. In order to make it seem realistic, the film used the school’s color, green, many times throughout.
Easily one of the most loved characters in the film, Leigh Anne Tuohy, was played by the passionate Sandra Bullock. Bullock’s performance was so touching that she scored herself both an Oscar and Golden Globe.
You may not have known that even though Bullock seems perfect for the part, she herself didn’t think so. Before finally accepting the role, she had turned it down several times because she didn’t like the idea of playing a strict Christian.
Almost the same
Many fans of the film fell in love with Quinton Aaron’s touching performance. He was really the perfect fit for the role of the gentle giant of a football player. Physically, he had the same build as the real football legend.
They have the same height and weight, but there was one thing they didn’t share in common, and that’s age! Quinton Aaron is actually a bit older than the real Big Mike. Aaron was born in 1984 and Oher was born in 1986.
Rejected by Julia Roberts
Sandra Bullock was not the only actress up for the leading role of Leigh Anne Tuohy, we’ve come to learn. Julia Roberts was also offered the role, but she eventually turned it down. Although she admired the role, she didn’t feel that it was the right fit for her.
We can’t help but wonder what might have been… We’re sure Roberts would have most likely given a stunning performance like she always does, it is hard to imagine the movie without Sandra Bullock.
Based on a book
The Blind Side was not just based on the true story of Michael Oher, but also a book. The film got a lot of its inspiration (and its title) from Michael Lewis’s book titled, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
In his book, Lewis writes about the lives and professional careers of two record-breaking football players, Michael Oher and Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants. Lewis’ book gained more recognition after the release of the film.
Although it may be hard for some people to believe, the actor who played Michael Oher in the movie had never actually acted before.
Aaron was working as a security guard at the time, and decided to go on a whim and audition for the role of Michael. Instead of an acting résumé, Oher handed director John Lee Hancock his business card. He was in complete shock when he heard that he had actually landed the role.
Training on the field
Not only did Aaron have to grow accustomed to life on set, he also had to get used to life on the football field. In order for Aaron to play a realistic Big Mike, he had to go through some football training himself.
The Georgia Tech football team worked hard with Aaron and taught him everything they could in order to prepare him for the role. Whatever they did worked because Aaron truly looked like a professional football player on the screen!
A serious athlete
Michael may have maintained a friendly relationship with Sandra Bullock, but he still regrets the film ever being made.
It isn’t just because of how he was portrayed in the film, but of how he is perceived by people today. Instead of being treated like a serious football player who overcame many obstacles to reach his goals, he feels that many people just kind of see him as that celebrity football player from the movie.
Welcome to Hollywood
Playing the leading role in an Academy Award-winning film ended up changing Aaron’s life completely. Before he got the role, he was just a simple security guard who had never even been on an airplane.
Not only did Aaron get flown to his second audition for The Blind Side, he also got starry-eyed during his first ever trip to Los Angeles. His life changed drastically after he got the role, and he was introduced to the glitzy Hollywood lifestyle that came with it.
Thanks to mom
Quinton Aaron may never have landed the role of Michael if it wasn’t for his supportive mother. Aaron’s mother always knew he had a great deal of talent.
When she saw there was going to be an audition for the role of Michael, and that they wanted a man with her son’s big build, she knew her son would be the perfect fit. She submitted his information for him, and waited by the phone patiently hoping to hear some good news.
Becoming Big Mike
Becoming Michael Oher was no easy task, and it certainly did not happen overnight. Quinton Aaron had to go through a great amount of intensive training and practice to make the role work.
The new actor also had to lose some weight for the role. Determined, Aaron shed 100 pounds in just a few months. He told press that he would have “done anything” to prove that he was the perfect fit for the part.
Not just an actor
If the actor who played Michael Oher’s adoptive father Sean Tuohy looked familiar to you, that is because he is none other than the country music star Tim McGraw.
Who would have known that he also had a gift for acting? Tim McGraw was not the only actor who has ties to the music world, as the actress Lily Collins, who played Collins Tuohy, is also the daughter of the one and only Phil Collins!
Role of a lifetime
Sandra Bullock certainly made a name for herself long before appearing in The Blind Side. The beautiful actress had already a long list of films under her belt including the movie Speed with Keanu Reeves.
She even starred in the popular rom-com The Proposal in the same year as The Blind Side appeared in theaters. Despite her credentials, many believe that her role in The Blind Side gave Bullock her biggest break yet.
After The Blind Side hit theaters, audience members of all different ages and backgrounds instantly fell in love.
The film not only won big in events like the Oscars and Golden Globes, they also broke a tremendous box office record. The Blind Side’s budget was a “modest” $30 million, but it ended up bringing in a whopping total of $309.2 million. The film became the highest grossing sports movie ever made.
One of the most touching scenes of the film takes place during Thanksgiving dinner. The whole Tuohy family, Michael included, is seen sitting around a table crammed with homemade food.
The camera catches a lovely scene of the perfect family Thanksgiving dinner, and gives the audience an “awww” feeling. Art critics were quick to point out that this scene is almost identical to a famous painting of Normal Rockwell’s titled “Freedom from Want.”
Not even close
In the film, Oher is bombarded with questions by the NCAA after he chooses to play for Ole Miss. The NCAA investigator, Jocelyn Granger, insisted on finding out why Oher picked Mississippi, assuming that he did so due to pressure from his adoptive parents.
Well, the real woman from NCAA who interviewed Big Mike, Joyce Thompson, came out against her portrayal in the movie. She said she interviews top prospects and monitors their recruitment process. She said that her job is not to intimidate or verbally attack the players, like the movie suggested.
The portrayal Joyce Thompson was not the only part of that scene Hollywood got wrong. During the scene, Granger interviewed Oher in an office of a tall skyscraper overlooking the city.
Granger tells Oher that he has to be interviewed alone and made his mother, Leigh Anne wait outside. Well, Thompson called this false also, claiming that she actually interviewed Michael in his home, next to his father. Leigh Anne was also invited to join him, as family members are always permitted, but she was not present at the time.
Although the film mentions Oher’s tough background, it doesn’t go into much detail about his prior education. Before attending Briarcrest, Oher went to 11 different schools in only 9 years.
He was not known as the best student, and was absent from class more often than he was present. He didn’t care about school much and was constantly skipping class. By the time he started his first year of high school, his GPA was only 0.6.
Quite the writer
During a scene in The Blind Side, Oher impresses his teacher with an essay he wrote called “White Walls.” He really wrote the essay near the end of his high school career not the beginning.
The actual beginning of his essay is: “I look and I see white everywhere: white walls, white floors, and a lot of white people…. The teachers are not aware that I have no idea of anything they are talking about. I do not want to listen to anyone, especially the teachers.”
Really “big” Mike
It is obvious that Michael Oher was never a small guy. But how big was he exactly? When he was just 15-years-old he was already 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed about 350 pounds.
In 2010 Michael Oher was listed as being about 2 inches taller. The actor who played Oher, Quinton Aaron, was actually even bigger than the real Michael. Aaron is 6 feet and 8 inches tall and weighs about 472 pounds!
Not new to the field
Unlike in the movie, Michael Oher was actually a skilled football player for a long time before he met the Tuohy family. He always played the sport and had a passion for it.
The Blind Side shows Oher learning football from scratch, like he had never played before, with his adoptive mother on field cheering him on and telling him to protect his team like he would his family.
Just like in the movie, when Christmas time came around, the Tuohys included their new adopted son in their annual card.
The photo sparked some questions by friends and relatives of the family, especially those who had never met Michael. Leigh Anne said that her cousin called pretty confused and told her, “I’m not trying to be rude or anything. Who’s the black boy in the Christmas card?” Leigh Anne had to explain to everyone that they had a new member of their family.
More than football
In the movie it only focuses on Michael’s talent for one sport, football. That makes sense considering it is the story of how he became a professional football player.
However, Michael Oher actually had a passion for another sport as well, basketball. He definitely had a good height for the sport and could easily make it to the net! He was actually quite good, and was runner-up Player of the Year at his Tennessee high school.
Big Mike’s little brother
Another favorite character in The Blind Side is Michael’s little brother, S.J. Tuohy.
Although S.J. didn’t really help teach Michael the rules of football like it seems in the movie, they did have a very close relationship and liked to play different sports together. S.J. also wasn’t nearly as small as the actor who played him on the screen, Jay Head. S.J. continues to be one of Oher’s number one fans.
Oher is not the only talented athlete in his family. His adoptive father, Sean Tuohy, was actually quite a star himself. He played basketball for Ole Miss and was All-SEC in every season he played.
In 1982, he got drafted to play for the New Jersey Nets, but decided against it in order to be with his father when he was sick. He took a different career path and now owns about 80 different chain restaurants.
Not a fan
As soon as The Blind Side hit theaters, it was a huge success. The critics raved and audiences everywhere fell in love with the feel-good story.
The film won many awards, and gained Sandra Bullock an Oscar for Best Actress. Despite the film’s overall success, there was one person who was not so pleased, the main character himself, Michael Oher. He commented that the film poorly represented his life and even mentioned that the film did more damage than good.
After spending some time with the real “Big Mike,” one might understand why he was disappointed with Quinton Aaron’s portrayal.
While Aaron is an incredible actor and gave a great performance, he portrayed Michael as someone who is more serious and shy, almost like a loner. The real Michael is anything but reserved, and although he takes his work on the field very seriously, he always plays with a huge smile on his face and has a roaring laugh.
Raising the grade
It took quite a lot of work from Oher to raise his grades enough to be considered for an NCAA college football program. At the start of his appraisal, his GPA sat at an incredibly low 0.76 – which would have completely barred him from acceptance into a program.
However, after working hard for so long, Oher was able to raise his GPA to 2.52 by the end of his time in high school – proving that he was academically capable as well as a football whiz.
A good reputation
Oher has made a point of letting people know that he was already a competent football player before he met the Tuohys, and this is certainly the truth. Having been at Briarcrest for 20 months before moving in with them, he had already been rated a 5-star player by football news and analysis site Scout.com.
He had also been ranked as the 5th most-promising offensive lineman in the U.S. at the time. Oher certainly got a lot of help from the Tuohys, but he was already a rising star.
Putting in the work
It’s no understatement that Oher had to put in a huge amount of work to be eligible to attend the colleges that he wanted to. After raising his GPA, Oher took some online courses with Brigham Young University, to put his grades over the threshold that they needed to reach.
In addition, he worked with a tutor whom he saw for lessons an unbelievable 20 hours a week. One of the most impressive things about Oher is just how far he pushed himself to achieve what he wanted.
By the time it came around for Oher to choose a college, his hard work had paid off, and he had a wide range to choose from. An immensely desirable prospect as a college athlete, Oher had been offered scholarships from the University of Alabama, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Tennessee, just to name a few.
However, in the end, Oher decided to attend the same alma mater as Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, choosing the University of Mississippi.
A suspicious choice
Oher had been granted his place at the University of Mississippi, and was ready to begin the career in football that he had been dreaming of for years. However, the NCAA opened an investigation into his choice, believing he had been coerced into choosing Mississippi.
The reason for the NCAA’s suspicion was that Hugh Freeze, the football coach at Briarcrest, had been hired by UoM weeks after Oher made his decision – and they worried that he had pressured Michael into making that choice to improve his job prospects.
A college man
Nonetheless, the NCAA ruled that neither Oher nor UoM had colluded to influence his choice, and Michael began attending the university in 2005. Now it was Oher’s chance to show that he could really shine – and he delivered, having an exemplary career at UoM.
He was placed on the All American Team – a team made up of those judged to be the best in the game – twice, and even made the honor roll of UoM twice as well. Oher had come a long way from a 0.76 GPA.
The big leagues
In April of 2009, it came time for the NFL draft – the event at which various NFL teams pick the players that they want. Michael’s hard work and dedication for the last few years had paid off, and he was tipped as one of the most-desired picks of that season.
Oher did in fact come to be one of the top picks for the draft that year – eventually being drafted 23rd out of 256 players, and joining the Baltimore Ravens.
Reaching a dream
Oher’s career with the Ravens officially began in July of 2009, when he was signed for a 5-year contract for the sum of $13.8 million. For Oher, this was unbelievable.
He had gone from homeless and struggling to being one of the first picks of a major NFL team, to signing for more money that he ever thought he might earn. He had always wanted to be an NFL player, but his dream had come true in a way that he never expected.
Oher’s starting season with the Ravens was very successful, as he was able to keep up the momentum that had carried him all the way to the NFL. Oher was even able to play a key role in a game between the Ravens and their rivals the New England Patriots…
Preventing the Patriots from sacking the quarterback even once, and ensuring the Ravens’ victory of 33 points to 14. For his work, Oher came in second for the voting of the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Becoming a champion
In February of 2013, Oher achieved the thing that every NFL player dreams of – being part of a Superbowl-winning team. In the game, the Ravens faced off against the San Francisco 49ers, in a match that came right down to the wire – quite literally, as there was even a power outage for 34 minutes halfway through the game.
In the end though, the Ravens managed to snatch a 34-31 victory from the 49ers, making Oher a member of a Superbowl-winning team.
With the Ravens, Oher had managed to make it to and win a Superbowl – but as is the case with a lot of players, he decided to move on when his contract expired. In March of 2014, Oher signed with the Tennessee Titans, agreeing to a 4-year contract over which he would earn a whopping $20 million dollars.
As one of the hottest names in football, Oher was a natural choice for the starting line of the Titans, starting 11 games with them as an offensive tackle.
However, despite being a coveted player, Oher soon began struggling during his time with the Titans. After 11 games he suffered an injury in one of his toes that put him out of commission for two games initially – before he was eventually benched as an injured reserve.
Even during the games he played however, Oher was not on top form – ending up ranked as the 74th best tackle out of 78 in the league by football analysis website Pro Football Focus.
As a result of his lackluster performance and injury, Oher was let go from his contract with the Titans in February of 2015. In March, he would go on to sign with the Carolina Panthers – entering into a 2-year contract that would net him 7 million dollars.
Despite his tarnished reputation, the Panthers made it clear that they believed Oher would find success with them, announcing their intention to have him play as a starting left tackle.
One of the reasons that Oher decided to sign with the Panthers after leaving the Titans was because he was a big fan of their quarterback Cam Newton. Signed by the Panthers in 2011, Newton is widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
He has broken numerous NFL records – including becoming the first quarterback to throw 4,000 yards throughout their first season – has won several awards, and has even helped the Panthers reach the Superbowl – leading them there in 2016.
Back on form
Attempting to come back from the slump that he had experienced playing with the Titans, Oher’s decision to join the Panthers turned out to be one of the best he could have made.
The season demonstrated that he was a truly excellent offensive tackle – to the point that he only let Newton be sacked four times across the entire season – the joint 8th least amount of sacks in NFL history. Oher was back, and proving once again that he had attracted so much attention for a reason.
Returning to the Superbowl
In February of 2016, Oher got a chance at winning the Superbowl once more – with the Carolina Panthers facing off against the Denver Broncos. Despite a valiant performance by the Panthers, the Broncos ended up handily winning the game, with the final score being 24-10.
Oher was not on top form in this game, with Newton getting sacked seven times. Nonetheless, despite losing to the Broncos, Oher had done what most players never accomplish, in having gotten to the Superbowl twice.
Sticking with it
Having played an excellent season of football with the Panthers and making it to the Superbowl, it was clear that Oher was sticking around. He agreed with the Panthers to extend his contract for another three years, and would earn $21.6 million in return.
However, this arrangement that seemed so good for everyone would not last for long. In November of 2016, Oher suffered a concussion during a game, and as such was placed on reserve so that he could have time to heal.
Moving on again
Oher had only played three games in the season before being put on reserve, but he was confident that he would be able to make a strong comeback. Unfortunately, that comeback never materialized.
In July of 2017, Oher underwent a physical to see if he was back in good enough condition to start playing for the Panthers. After this physical, the Panthers announced that they would be releasing Oher, as he was still not in the proper health to be able to play.
Sharing the message
The story of Michael Oher had been told in three different ways, through the book and movie versions of The Blind Side, and Oher’s own memoir. However, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy decided to add to that collection, publishing a book called ‘In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving’.
The book is an explication of the philosophy of giving that the family espouses, that led them to take in Michael in the first place. The Tuohys also give talks around the U.S., sharing their unique story.
Despite their centrality to the story of Michael Oher as it is told, the Tuohys were not the first family to take him in, nor were they the ones to get Oher started at Briarcrest.
Oher was staying with Tony Henderson, a mechanic who was trying to get his son into Briarcrest and suggested Michael attempt to enroll as well. Were it not for Henderson’s suggestion, Oher’s life could have taken an entirely different turn – although he would no doubt have still aimed for the NFL.
One of the more surprising aspects of The Blind Side is that many of the people who have seen the film and know Oher have said that, in real life, he is nothing like the way he is portrayed in the film.
Oher in the film is portrayed as timid and somewhat slow-witted – whereas friends and acquaintances of Oher’s claim that he is confident and bright. Oher had claimed to be unhappy with this particular dimension of the film, believing that it clouds people’s judgment of him.
A voice on the field
Sean Tuohy has extensive experience with the sport of basketball, having played in college but having also served as a commentator for basketball games. Tuohy has been a commentator for the NBA team The Memphis Grizzlies since 2001, taking his passion from the basketball court to the commentator’s booth.
In addition, Tuohy was provided analysis and commentary on the radio for University of Mississippi games. Oher was probably quite lucky that the Tuohys were such sports fans themselves, as it would have offered an encouraging environment for his NFL dreams.
Sandra Bullock’s reservations regarding the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy are well-known, given that she did not think she would be able to play the role properly. However, it seems that this fear of messing up was really getting to Bullock, as it almost caused a major halt in the film’s production.
Part of the way through the filming process Sandra became determined to quit, because she thought she was doing a terrible job with the role. Luckily, director John Lee Hancock was able to convince her to stay.
A profitable decision
Despite her doubts, Sandra Bullock was very fond of the role she was playing, and wanted very much to see the movie succeed. She was committed to the extent that she was willing to take a cut in pay so that the film would have more money for production.
In return, Bullock agreed to take home a percentage of the film’s profits – a decision that ended up working out very well for her, as ‘The Blind Side’ ended up raking in a phenomenal $300 million on a $30 million budget.