In 2009, the film, The Blind Side, was released. It did exceedingly well, and caused people from all four corners of the world to feel strong emotions, to laugh and cry.
In fact, critic, S. Jhoanna Robledo from Common Sense Media said, “Based on a book by journalist Michael Lewis chronicling the real Oher’s experiences, ‘The Blind Side’ manages to inspire despite its broad-strokes approach to characterization.”
Today however, you’re about to read about the true story of Michael Oher, one of the main characters in The Blind Side – a boy that at age 16, was able to leave his drug-addicted mother, and start a brand new life.
But Oher admits that he doesn’t particularly enjoy watching the movie, as there are some flaws to the truth. Here is the true story.
2006 and 2009
The Blind Side was released in 2009, starring Quinton Aaron as Michael “Big Mike”, Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, and Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy. It’s based on a true story, which was turned into a book in 2006 of the same name. The film did so well, in fact, that it brought in $300 million at the box office, and Bullock was given an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for her role.
First off, the characters are portrayed in a someone different manner to how they really look in real life. Sandra Bullock dyed her hair blonde for the part, and her characters children, Sean or “SJ,” and Collins played by actors Jae Head and Lily Collins, respectively. It was note however, that SJ was a lot thinner in the film, whereas in real life, he is a lot stockier and taller. Michael, on the other hand, was shown as bigger than he really is, with less muscle.
In the film, Michael was able to enroll in the local high school with relatively little issues, after football coach, Burt Cotton, uses his powers of persuasion. In reality however, the principle of the school did allow Michael to attend the school, only after undergoing several month of home schooling though.
How They Met
The film lead its viewers to believe that Sean, Bullock’s husband, spotted Michael while at his daughter’s volleyball match. This however, isn’t true. He had actually heard of Michael via his daughter, and took the initiative to go to the school and set up a lunch account for him so that he could eat a meal every day.
Staying With Leigh-Anne and Sean
In the film, it seemed as though Michael moved in with the Tuohy family quite quickly, after Bullock found him walking in the rain one evening and invited him to stay with them. This isn’t exactly accurate. Michael was seen on the side of the road one morning, but was not invited into the Tuohy home. Instead, Leigh Anne visited the school at a later stage, and took Michael shopping for new clothes.
Before Michael entered the Tuohy home for good, he had spent time with many different families, and lived on the street. Sean Tuohy admitted in an interview, “He’d stay here once in awhile and then he’d leave, and then he seemed more comfortable to stay.”
While the real Michael said, “When I moved in with Leigh Anne and Sean, I felt loved, like part of a family. In the other houses, I didn’t feel like part of the family. I didn’t feel like they wanted me there.”
In the film, Michael is quite shy and timid. In real life however, he is more aggressive and passionate about American Football. “I’ve always had that fire and passion in me on the field. You can’t put aggression into a person. It’s impossible. Either you have that toughness and aggression or you don’t,” said the real Michael.
In the film, Michael gets along with each family member relatively well and becomes friends with S.J and Collins almost immediately – and in real life, that part is true, with S.J calling Michael his best friend.
In the film, it is evident that Collins helps Michael with his school work, but not nearly to the extend that she did in real life. In fact, Collins moved her school schedule around so that she could be with him in class, and help him with his assignments. “That was the most studying I’d ever done in my life,” Collins said.
High School Graduate
Michael said in an interview that he was thrilled to finish high school, and equally as excited about attending college. “It was unbelievable, just to walk across the stage and shake the president’s hand. I was the first one out of anybody that I ever knew to graduate, so it was a great experience,” he said.
The “White Walls” Essay
In the film, Michael’s teacher reads an essay that he wrote entitled, White Walls. That part is true. Some of the essay read, “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. They are giving homework and expecting me to do the problems on my own. I’ve never done homework in my life. I go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say, “This is not Mike Oher. I want to get out of this place.”
The subject of race is hardly mentioned in the film, while in reality it was learned that Leigh Anne was raised by a racist family. Leigh Anne’s views however, were different to that of her family.
It is true that Michael’s mother, Denise, was a drug addict. He was one of 12 children raised in the housing project, Hurt Village in North Memphis, and says that his mother “wasn’t really around too much,” and that he had to take care of himself. In an interview, Denise commented, “That addiction is very hard to just stop. You have to work on it. You have to pray and you have to be committed to it and you have you want to change your life from that.”
Michael’s Birth Father
Just like in the movie, Michael’s birth father was, in fact, shot and killed, with his body being thrown over an overpass. Michael only learned about his father’s death after three months, as it took that long to identify his body.
A Better Player
Michael is, in fact, a better American football player than what is depicted in the film. Bullock said, that the script was “fairly accurate for Hollywood,” and that “Michael was a better football player than they showed but the fact that they didn’t screw things up was a miracle.”
In the film, American football coach, coach Cotton, appeared to be quite goofy and relied on Leigh Anne a lot to encourage and motivate Michael. In real life, however, coach Cotton was more powerful and accomplished, and able to inspire Michael in new ways.
The Car Accident
In the film, Michael and S.J get into a car accident whereby Michael stops an airbag from hitting S.J. This part is true. “That’s 100 percent accurate. The car behind them was someone from the basketball team. Someone witnessed that. The overall theme and concept was dead on, more accurate than Hollywood usually does,” said Sean Tuohy.
A Negative Impact
While real Michael went on to become an all-American left tackle, the film did affect the way in which his team members viewed him. He said, “I’m not trying to prove anything. People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field. This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football. It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”
Michael, who played for The Panthers, was released due to health issues when a veteran offensive tackle was released with a failed physical designation. “The most important thing is his health. Our only concern is him getting healthy. Michael’s health always came first. We were not going to force the issue. Michael understood and we expressed that to him,” said coach Ron Rivera.
Leigh Anne’s Fame
After Leigh Anne gained international recognition, she used her fame to contribute to a few other initiative, such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and gave several speeches in the U.S. about racism and adoption. She said, “It’s mind-boggling. We realize we do have a mission. We have the opportunity to change lives. If that sounds narcissistic, screw it. Racism is alive and well in this country; we have to learn how to love someone who doesn’t look like us.”