The true story of Michael Oher and The Blind Side
Michael Oher has alleged that the adoption story at the heart of The Blind Side was a lie.
The Blind Side brings to life the rags-to-riches tale of former National Football League player Michael Oher.
Inspired by Michael Lewis’s 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, the 2009 film starred Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher and Sandra Bullock as his adoptive mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy. The film went on to receive critical acclaim, earning two Academy Awards nominations including Best Picture in 2010.
It follows Oher, a poverty-stricken, homeless and academically challenged Black teenager, as he’s adopted by the Tuohys and is taught the basics of football and put on the road to stardom by the family.
The true story of Oher and his road to success, however, is a bit more complicated than the movie leads viewers to believe. Read on for everything you need to know about the true story behind the film.
The true story of Michael Oher and The Blind Side
While The Blind Side attributes the bulk of the credit for Oher’s success to the Tuohys, in his 2011 book, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond, Oher also credits his case worker growing up, his siblings and the security that came from his foster homes for overcoming his circumstances.
He also criticises the film for depicting him as unintelligent rather than "a kid who had never had consistent academic instruction and ended up thriving once he got it".
Oher also points out that, while The Blind Side depicts him as having no football knowledge until he meets the Tuohys, he was already playing and studying football as well as running track and playing basketball when he crossed paths with the family.
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In addition, in I Beat the Odds, Oher also states that his on-screen character is more introverted than he was in real-life.
Oher previously told ESPN in 2015 that his depiction in the movie had negatively affected his football career, attributing it to why he was “downgraded” so much.
“People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie,” he said. “They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am.”
Talking to People Magazine in 2021, Oher talked about how being taken in by the Tuohy family had allowed him to grow into the person he’s become.
"When I started to see that I had two or three pair of shoes to wear to school and I had multiple pants, my mental health started getting stronger," he said. "I could focus on school, and my grades started to go up. I was eating, so I could focus on other things rather than being hungry, that's when I really started to excel."
Did Michael Oher actually get adopted?
As detailed above, Oher has always been vocal about the ways the movie oversimplifies elements of his life.
But now the former NFL player has alleged that the adoption story at the heart of the popular book and movie is, in fact, a lie.
In court documents filed in Tennessee on Monday (14th August), Oher claims he was never adopted and that the couple "tricked him into signing a document making them his conservators, which gave them legal authority to make business deals in his name".
The petition also alleges, according to ESPN, that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy made millions of dollars from his name.
“The lie of Michael’s adoption is one upon which co-conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward, the undersigned Michael Oher,” it alleges.
“Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023, when he learned that the conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family, in fact provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohys.”
The Blind Side went on to gross more than $300m (£237m) at the global box office and millions more in home video sales.
According to the petition, the Tuohys and their two children were each paid $225,000, in addition to 2.5% of the film's net proceeds, while Mr Oher "received nothing".
Oher has asked the court to end the conservatorship and to stop the family from using his name and likeness. He is also seeking financial compensation.
“Since at least August of 2004, Conservators have allowed Michael, specifically, and the public, generally, to believe that Conservators adopted Michael and have used that untruth to gain financial advantages for themselves and the foundations which they own or which they exercise control,” the petition added.
“All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.”
However, on Monday (15th August), Sean Tuohy told The Daily Memphian he had been “devastated” to hear about the lawsuit and would be willing to release Oher from the conservatorship.
He also denied that the Tuohys had made any money from the movie.
“We contacted lawyers who had told us that we couldn’t adopt over the age of 18; the only thing we could do was to have a conservatorship. We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court,” he said.
And he added: “We didn’t make any money off the movie. Well, Michael Lewis, the [author of the book on which the movie was based] gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each.”
Where is Michael Oher now?
Oher retired from football in 2018 after an impressive career.
The former NFL star has since established The Oher Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at helping disadvantaged children.
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