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The Real Story Behind ‘The Blind Side’

The Real Story Behind ‘The Blind Side’

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When “The Blind Side” was released in theaters in 2009, it was an instant success. The movie featured a loaded cast: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates, Nick Saban and more. The impressive performance of the cast scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Film. But while the cast was widely receiving praise for its efforts, tension brewed in the background. To Michael Oher, the true story of his life was very different than how the movie portrayed him. Here are all the ways ‘The Blind Side’ got Michael Oher’s story wrong…

The movie earned high praise from everyone but Michael Oher

The Blind Side became an instant success. Critics generally enjoyed the film, and audiences loved it. The movie garnered multiple award nominations, and it even took home some hardware. But though it widely received praise, the movie failed to impress perhaps the most important person of all: the man on whom the film was based.

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That’s right. Michael Oher himself couldn’t stand “The Blind Side.” Despite an outstanding performance from actor Quinton Aaron, who played Michael Oher, the NFL lineman did not enjoy the movie. He felt it was a poor representation of his life and claimed the film actually did more damage than anything else.

NEXT: Here’s what Michael Oher said about Quinton Aaron’s performance…

Michael Oher didn’t like the way he was portrayed

Quinton Aaron’s performance in “The Blind Side” was outstanding, but Michael Oher didn’t feel like it was very realistic. The professional athlete was less than enthused with how he was portrayed in the movie — but not because he felt Quinton Aaron did a bad job. Instead, he felt the actor did not portray the real Big Mike.

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The film portrayed Michael Oher as a very reserved person, bordering on being a loner. The character seems aloof, overly serious and even uptight on occasion. That’s not how Michael Oher really is. The athlete does what he needs to do to excel on the field, but he does so with a smile and a roar of a laugh. In other words, he doesn’t ever take himself too seriously.

NEXT: Here’s how ‘The Blind Side’ watered down the obstacles Oher had to overcome…

The movie simplified his struggles

“The Blind Side” doesn’t hide the fact that Michael Oher endured a difficult upbringing. It even states mentions he had been homeless and lacked any real family. But to condense the story of Michael Oher’s life to a movie, the writers had to leave out some major details of his past. When Michael Oher saw this, he was less than excited.

Michael Oher sits in his family's house

(Photo by IMDB)

Michael Oher did indeed have a tough life. His mother suffered from alcohol and drug addictions, and she was unable to give him (and his 11 other siblings) the attention and care he needed growing up. Oher’s father was frequently in prison, where he eventually was murdered.

NEXT: Here’s how the film exaggerated the moment the Tuohy Family met Michael…

It also exaggerated Oher’s story

In “The Blind Side,” the Tuohy family first encounters Michael Oher as he was left out in the middle of a huge storm. Oher’s clothes were drenched, and he was freezing in the rain. While the image of a loving family putting their life on hold to take care of a boy left out in the rain, that wasn’t quite how Michael Oher’s story actually played out.

Sandra Bullock, playing Michael Oher's mother, reads a book to her children

(Photo by IMDB)

While the family did see Michael Oher on the side of the road in real life, they didn’t pick him up as soon as they saw him. Rather, on the next day, Leigh Anne Tuohy visited Michael at his new school and went shopping for new clothes. In short, Oher’s story wasn’t as glamorous as it was made out to be on the big screen.

NEXT: Here’s how ‘The Blind Side’ left out major details about racial tension¬†

Racial Tension

The film only mentions race a couple of times. In the first instance, Sean Tuohy admits to his disbelief at having a black son. In the second, a fellow player mentions race as he jeers Michael Oher during a game. Overall, the movie doesn’t go into the subject of race too much.

Michael Oher poses for a group photo

(Photo by Flickr/Tulane Public Relations)

However, race had a much more profound impact on the lives of Michael Oher and his family. Although the Tuohy family enjoyed Oher’s presence, Leigh Anne knew her family might not have been as pleased. Apparently, her family tended to be racist at times. But despite their differences, Michael Oher managed to fit in with his adoptive family fairly well.

NEXT: Producers even distorted the reality of the relationships within the family…¬†

The film sugarcoated Michael Oher’s family life

Michael Oher and the Tuohy family were a good match, but their lives weren’t as perfect as Hollywood made them out to be. The Tuohys saw him as an amazing son and older sibling, and he appreciated them for becoming the supportive parents he never had. But sadly, things were not as sunny as they seemed to be in the film.

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Both sides had doubts. There was tension between the Tuohy family and Michael Oher that likely lasted at least for a while. Oher still appreciates his adoptive family, and he bonded well with Collins and S.J. Tuohy. However, the relationship needed time to grow and did not quite happen overnight. Again, the Hollywood illusion of instant perfection might feel good in a movie, but things weren’t so perfect in real life.

NEXT: How Quinton Aaron came up short of the “perfect performance”…

Quinton Aaron fell just short of playing the perfect Michael Oher

Actor Quinton Aaron appeared to be the perfect casting to play Michael Oher. The actor had a similar build to the NFL offensive lineman, and both stand at a pretty similar height. However, there’s one tiny detail that separated the two men.

Quinton William as Michael Oher

(Photo by IMDB)

Though the two were similar in build and in height, Quinton Aaron is actually slightly older than Michael Oher. The actor was born in 1984, two years before the future NFL star. Still, the ages match up closely enough for the difference to matter very little. All in all, it seemed like Quinton Aaron was just a hair short of the perfect casting for the role.

NEXT: Here’s how ‘The Blind Side’ made Michael Oher look weak to the NFL…

It also left out the true story behind Michael Oher’s success

In the film, Leigh Ann Tuohy is the character who ultimately helps Michael Oher fall in love with football. But in real life, Michael Oher didn’t have a fiery Sandra Bullock teaching everything he needed to know about the game. Things were much different.

Sandra Bullock, playing Michael Oher's mom, coaches her son on the football field

(Photo by IMDB)

The film portrayed Michael Oher’s relationship with his mom as a touching mentor-and-mentee story. But this fictional scenario was exaggerated, to say the least. The movie makes it seem as though Oher’s mother was the one putting in the hard work to make him a better player. But in real life, the majority of Oher’s progress and growth came when he was working on his own.

NEXT: How an awkward audition turned into the role of a lifetime…

Quinton Aaron took a shocking path to get to “The Blind Side”

As we mentioned earlier, Quinton Aaron was as close to a perfect of Michael Oher as there possibly could’ve been. Believe it or not, this was the actor’s first lead role. Before “The Blind Side,” he’d only dabbled in acting with small parts here and there.

Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

Quinton Aaron did not expect to get the part of Michael Oher when he auditioned. At the time he was cast, Aaron was actually working as a security guard. In fact, on his way out from the audition, he did something that now seems silly considering his success as an actor. Aaron gave his business card to director John Lee Hancock, offering to provide security services on the set during filming.

NEXT: How the movie changed how people see Michael Oher…

“The Blind Side” changed how people see Michael Oher

One of the biggest reasons Michael Oher isn’t a fan of “The Blind Side” is because of the way people started to see him after the movie was released. Before the movie, people saw Oher for who he is: a hardworking athlete, doing his best to succeed at the NFL level.

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Michael Oher is disappointed that few people see him how he wants to be seen. His story of achieving a seemingly unreachable dream in becoming an NFL athlete is enough of a story in itself. But since the movie was released, he now feels people just recognize him as the football player who had a movie made about him.

NEXT: Here’s how producers completely lied about Oher’s high school experience…

The movie incorrectly portrays Michael Oher’s high school experience

If you thought Michael Oher’s transition to Briarcrest Christian School was a bit too perfect in the movie, you were right. Oher’s transition to high school was embellished to become more emotional, as was the case with many other parts of the movie.

High school student Michael Oher in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

In “The Blind Side,” the teachers at the high school are initially hesitant to allow Oher into the school. Eventually, they become more accepting after he opens up to them. Oher’s honesty, combined with a powerful speech from the coach of the football team, eventually help him gain admission to the school. In reality, the athlete had to complete some rigorous academic assignments before he could officially gain admission to the school. This was one of many ways the movies strayed from the truth.

NEXT: How Oher tried to set the record straight…

Michael Oher tried to correct the film’s errors

In order to let his fans know the whole truth, Michael Oher did everything in his power to correct the errors that had been made in “The Blind Side.” To do this, he wrote an autobiography titled “I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond” in 2011.

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In the autobiography, Oher gives a more thorough look into his childhood, correcting any of the misconceptions the film made about him. He also detailed some of the more important stories in his life he felt the film left unresolved. The book provided a more personal insight into the NFL player’s life, detailing Oher’s story in a way the movie wasn’t quite able to.

NEXT: Here’s why Sandra Bullock passed on the role at first…

Sandra Bullock almost wasn’t Leigh Anne Tuohy

Sandra Bullock’s award-winning performance in “The Blind Side” was one of the movie’s biggest highlights. The actress won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her stellar performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy. But as it turns out, she had doubts about accepting the part.

Sandra Bullock won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy

(Photo by IMDB)

Sandra Bullock was offered the part of Leigh Anne Tuohy several times, but she declined. The thought of portraying a pious Christian mother made her nervous. Bullock passed on the part, but one day she met the real Leigh Anne Tuohy. Meeting the inspirational mother may have changed Bullock’s mind, as she eventually changed her mind. But Sandra Bullock wasn’t actually the only choice for the part.

NEXT: Who else did producers have in mind for the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy?

Julia Roberts was offered Sandra Bullock’s part in the movie

So who else was a contender for the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side?” As it turns out, another A-list actress was offered the role: Julia Roberts. Given the film’s eventual success, the massively successful actress probably wishes she took the part.

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With a chance to play Leigh Anne Tuohy, Julia Roberts turned the part down — it just didn’t feel right for her. Fortunately, Bullock eventually took her place and gave an outstanding performance. “The Blind Side” would reshape Sandra Bullock’s career and set her on a bright path towards an incredible future, as demonstrated later on in this story.

NEXT: Producers paid more attention to detail than you may have realized…

Producers nailed it on Leigh Anne Tuohy’s portrayal

Just like she was in the movie, Leigh Anne Tuohy is an interior designer in real life. If you’re really observant, you may have noticed that Leigh Anne mentioned Patrick Ramsey in the film. So what’s her relation to Patrick Ramsey?

Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy

(Photo by IMDB)

Interestingly, Leigh Anne Tuohy actually worked for Patrick Ramsey, the former NFL quarterback. Sure, the fact isn’t directly mentioned in the film, but the reference wasn’t completely pointless. The relationship was a well-hidden Easter egg, intended for only the most diehard football fans to uncover. (By diehard, we really mean those who keep up-to-date with players’ home improvement strategies.)

NEXT: The start of an unexpected relationship…

Michael Oher is still friends with the cast of “The Blind Side”

Though Michael Oher was not a fan of “The Blind Side,” he seems to get along with the actors and actresses from the film just fine. In fact, one actress, in particular, remains a close friend to Oher: none other than Sandra Bullock herself.

Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

Sandra Bullock not only checks in on Michael Oher from time to time — she also checks in with the entire Tuohy family. Bullock is one of Oher’s biggest fans, and she has cheered him on throughout his career as an NFL athlete. In fact, she and his family sat in the stands and cheered him on as he competed in the Super Bowl.

NEXT: Did producers purposely hide the success of Oher’s sister?

“The Blind Side” didn’t tell the whole story of Oher’s sister

One character that fans of “The Blind Side” fell in love with was Michael Oher’s sister, Collins Tuohy. Portrayed by actress Lily Collins, Collins Tuohy is perceived to be a high achiever. In the movie, she is a cheerleader for the high school and a member of the volleyball team.

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The movie portrayed Collins Tuohy as a talented individual, but the truth is she’s far more talented than the movie was able to demonstrate. While she was in high school, Collins Tuohy was a state champion pole vaulter. She also went on to become a college cheerleader at Oher’s alma mater, Ole Miss.

NEXT: Here’s how producers changed the way Michael and Sean Tuohy met…

Michael Oher didn’t meet his dad the way it played out in the movie

By this point, it’s clear Michael Oher’s life was exaggerated on the big screen to make for a better story. A major example of this occurs in the scene where Michael Oher meets his new father, Sean Tuohy. It was an emotional scene in the movie, but things didn’t happen that way in real life.

Sean Tuohy in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

In “The Blind Side,” Sean Tuohy meets Michael Oher unexpectedly at one of Collins Tuohy’s volleyball games. After the game, Oher cleans up trash that was left by people in the stands. But in real life, Sean Tuohy first visited Michael Oher at his school. He needed to make sure Oher’s lunch money had been processed, so the athlete would not go hungry at school.

NEXT: How Quinton Aaron prepared for his biggest role…

Quinton Aaron put in hard work to prepare for his role

Though he was a security guard at the time, Quinton Aaron still had plenty of work to do to get to the top of his physical game. Knowing he’d portray a professional athlete, he trained with a college football team in order to physically prepare for the role.

Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

To prep for his role as Michael Oher, Quinton Aaron trained with the football team at Georgia Tech University. Working with the Yellow Jackets helped Aaron get more accustomed to the field. Portraying a professional athlete, it was important for Quinton Aaron to be just as comfortable on the field as he was off it.

NEXT: Here’s why Michael’s high school didn’t want to be mentioned in the movie…

Michael Oher’s school didn’t want to be in the movie

Briarcrest Christian School was not very excited to be featured in “The Blind Side.” In fact, the school was worried the movie could damage its reputation. Even though the name of the school in the movie was changed to Wingate Christian School, officials at Briarcrest Christian weren’t excited that Michael Oher’s teachers in the film were shown to dismiss his academic abilities.

S.J. Tuohy and Michael Oher in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

In the end, the directors of “The Blind Side” did everything they could to represent Briarcrest Christian School in a positive way. Director John Lee Hancock even remembered to prominently feature the school’s color, green, throughout Wingate Christian School in the movie.

NEXT: How ‘The Blind Side’ turned Quinton Aaron’s life around…

“The Blind Side” flipped Quinton Aaron’s life upside down

Before playing Michael Oher, Quinton Aaron was a security guard. “The Blind Side” gave Aaron an opportunity not only to play the leading role in an Oscar-nominated film. But it also provided him with the ability to enjoy the glamorous life that came with being such an accomplished actor.

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Before “The Blind Side,” Quinton Aaron had never even stepped foot on an airplane in his life. In fact, the first flight of Aaron’s life came when he returned for his second audition for the part. In that trip, the actor was also able to experience another first: his maiden visit to Los Angeles, California.

NEXT: How Quinton’s mom helped get him the role…

Quinton Aaron’s mom helped him get the part

The actor who played Michael Oher learned how much of a blessing it can be to have supportive parents when he landed his audition for the part in “The Blind Side.” If it wasn’t for his mother, Quinton Aaron may not have ever had the chance to try out for the part of Michael Oher.

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When she saw the Michael Oher role in “The Blind Side,” Aaron’s mother immediately thought of her son. Noticing the height and size requirements, she instantly knew the part was made for her son. She then did what only a great mother would do and submitted his name for him, hoping for her son to get a callback.

NEXT: Here’s how Quinton Aaron had to transform his body for the role of Michael Oher…

Quinton Aaron made a huge sacrifice to get his part

To get the part of Michael Oher, Quinton Aaron had to endure intense training, a ton of practice and more. He trained with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and put in hours upon hours to become a better actor. But what exactly did the “more” entail?

Quinton Aaron portrays Michael Oher in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

In preparing to play the part of Michael Oher, Quinton Aaron embarked on an incredible weight loss journey. Putting in hard work over the course of three months, the young actor lost 100 pounds to get in shape for the role. Aaron considered the weight loss journey a small price to pay for such a great opportunity.

NEXT: How producers stacked the film with a star-studded cast…

Sandra Bullock wasn’t the only celebrity in “The Blind Side”

To fans of country music, the actor who played Sean Tuohy might look somewhat familiar. That’s because the actor who portrayed him, like Sandra Bullock, is an A-list celebrity. In fact, the actor who played Tuohy is none other than country music sensation Tim McGraw. Bullock and McGraw sure made for a power couple!

Alabama coach Nick Saban, country music star Tim McGraw, Lily Collins (Phil Collins' daughter) and Sandra Bullock

(Photo by IMDB)

As if Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw didn’t bring enough star power to set, “The Blind Side” featured even more A-list celebrities in the film. Lily Collins, who plays the Tuohys’ daughter, is actually the daughter of Phil Collins in real life. Football coaches Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron of Alabama and LSU were also featured in the film.

NEXT: How ‘The Blind Side’ became Sandra Bullock’s biggest success…

“The Blind Side” was Sandra Bullock’s biggest break

When she appeared on the set of “The Blind Side,” Sandra Bullock was already an accomplished actress. But her role in this film helped her reach heights she’d never attained before. Previously starring in “Speed” alongside Keanu Reeves and “The Proposal” with Ryan Reynolds, Bullock was the title actress for “The Blind Side.”

Sandra Bullock was the title actress for "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

“The Blind Side” brought Sandra Bullock widespread critical acclaim and multiple major awards. But it also helped her achieve something even bigger: a major broken record. “The Blind Side” was the first film solely led by a female star to gross over $200 million at the box office. That’s an impressive feat!

NEXT: ‘The Blind Side’ unexpectedly broke records…

The movie broke a major film record

“The Blind Side” may have been the first film solely led by a female star to gross over $200 million at the box office, but that may not even be the film’s most impressive achievement. Fans and critics alike hailed the movie, and the record the film broke goes to show just that.

Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher

(Photo by IMDB)

“The Blind Side” was produced with a modest budget of just under $30 million. But $30 million looks like a pocketful of change considering the massive success of the film. The film ended up bringing home over $300 million. “The Blind Side” is the highest-grossing sports film of all-time, and the film has held the record for about a decade.

NEXT: How a famous piece of art was hidden as an easter egg in the film…

There’s a hidden Easter egg in the Thanksgiving scene

One of the most memorable moments of “The Blind Side” is the Thanksgiving scene. Gathered at a crowded table, the Tuohy family comes together to share an incredible meal. Everything seems to be picture perfect, right down to the bronzed turkey. If you look closer, you might notice something that appears to be hidden within the film.

Michael Oher and the Tuohy family pray before a meal

(Photo by IMDB)

When Leigh Anne Tuohy went to set down the turkey, the scene appeared to be a replica of painter Norman Rockwell’s famous “Freedom from Want.” Fans have speculated whether or not the detail was intentional, but there’s no way of knowing for sure whether the directors wanted to replicate the famous painting.

NEXT: How Ole Miss made a huge impact…

Ole Miss plays a big part in the film

“The Blind Side” might not exist without the University of Mississippi. After all, three major characters in the film all attended Ole Miss. The main character, Michael Oher, attended Ole Miss. In addition, Oher’s parents, Collins Tuohy and Leigh Anne Tuohy, are also Ole Miss alumni.

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Coincidentally, “The Blind Side” wasn’t the first film in which Sandra Bullock played an Ole Miss alumni. In 1996, the prolific actress starred in a drama titled “A Time To Kill.” In that film, Bullock’s character was a passionate law student named Ellen Roark. Before attending law school, Roark attended the University of Mississippi as an undergraduate student.

NEXT: Michael Oher’s story wasn’t the main focus of the book…

“The Blind Side” was a book before it was a movie

The cinematic version of “The Blind Side” tells the story of NFL lineman Michael Oher. But before there was a movie, there was a book. But there’s actually a major difference between the two. Unlike the movie, the paperback version doesn’t solely focus on “Big Mike” in the story.

Michael Oher of the Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons/Tammy Anthony Baker)

The original book, titled “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” had two main focuses. The first focus of Michael Lewis’ book was on the evolution of offensive and defensive strategy in American football. It also detailed the life of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Lawrence Taylor. Michael Oher’s path to the NFL was the second focus of Lewis’ story.

NEXT: How ‘The Blind Side’ incorporated real coaches into the film…

Real football coaches acted in the movie

Sports fans surely noticed an array of familiar faces in “The Blind Side.” That’s because many of the coaches portrayed in the movie were current or past coaches. For example, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt — who actually coached Michael Oher in real life — played the role of himself in the movie.

Football coaches in "The Blind Side"

(Photo by IMDB)

Nutt wasn’t the only notable college football coach to feature in “The Blind Side.” Ed Orgeron, who has coached at several schools including LSU, Ole Miss, and USC, was another high-profile coach in the movie. Phillip Fulmer, who formerly coached at the University of Tennessee, also made it to the big screen. Legendary coach Nick Saban also featured in “The Blind Side.”

Connor Howe has been working in the sports industry for more than a half-decade, having spent time on the writing side as well as the marketing side of professional sports. He's spent time with the San Diego Chargers, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation, among others, and is excited to bring his knowledge and experience to Tiebreaker.

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