‘The Blind Side’: What the 2009 Movie Got Wrong About the Real Story

The biographical sports film The Blind Side tells the story of a homeless black teenager named Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) who becomes a successful football player. The movie is based on the true story of a well-to-do white couple, Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock) and her husband, Sean (played by Tim McGraw). They take Oher into their home and eventually become Michael’s legal guardians. With the family’s support and his natural talent, Michael or “Big Mike” becomes an All-American football player at Ole Miss and first found NFL draft pick. He also played in the 2013 Super Bowl. However, the real Micahel Oher had issues with the way The Blind Side portrayed his story.

Football player Michael Oher had some problems with the Oscar-award-winning biopic

Sandra Bullock cast of The Blind Side
Actress Sandra Bullock attends the premiere of The Blind Side in 2009 | Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

The Blind Side was a financial success at the box office, grossing over $300 million dollars (with a relatively small budget of about $30 million). Sandra Bullock won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her role in The Blind Side.

However, according to TieBreaker, the record-breaking success of the film wasn’t a celebratory thing for everyone involved. Michael Oher took exception with some of the differences between his real life and the representation in the film. 

Why Oher disliked his character’s representation in ‘The Blind Side’

Oher and his 11 siblings had a rough childhood, growing up with a substance-addicted mother and incarcerated father. Tragically, his father was murdered during Oher’s high school senior year. Leigh Anne Touhy recalls Oher having been in over 20 foster homes before the age of 15. Despite the hardship, Oher describes himself as having a huge personality with a big laugh — totally unlike the quiet, reserved, loner character of Mike in The Blind Side.

In The Blind Side, Oher is characterized as someone with little football experience and drive. Leigh Anne Tuohy, on the other hand, appears to be Oher’s constant inspiration in the movie — the one who pushes him to become a football star. 

Oher felt the “film deliberately left out his athletic past in the previous schools he attended, thereby robbing him of his own hard work and determination as an athlete.”

Michael Oher, football player
Michael Oher | Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

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What is ‘Big Mike’ Oher’s side of the story when it comes to the 2009 film?

Whatever literary license the film’s producers may have taken with his life story, Oher did have an opportunity to set the record straight in his autobiography,  I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to the Blind Side, and Beyond. In the book, Oher writes:

I could not figure out why the director chose to show me as someone who had to be taught the game of football. Whether it was S.J. moving around ketchup bottles or Leigh Anne explaining to me what blocking is about, I watched those scenes thinking, ‘No, that’s not me at all! I’ve been studying –really studying—the game since I was a kid!’ That was my main hang-up with the film.

While playing Offensive tackle for the Ravens, Titans, and then the Carolina Panthers, Oher felt the movie had a surprisingly negative effect on his football career. Too many people were focused on his Blind Side backstory, rather than his athletic career. On Super Bowl Media Day in 2013, Oher was quoted saying: “I’m tired of the movie. I’m here to play football.”

He also commented on the impact of The Blind Side to ESPN.

“This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football,” Oher explained. “It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”

Lead cast member Sandra Bullock support supported Oher‘s opinions

Bullock supported Oher’s feelings in a 2010 interview with Tribute.

The Blind Side cast
Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw attend The Blind Side | Jim Spellman/WireImage

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“The person who Michael Oher is, is the real deal, because he doesn’t want the movie stuff,” the Speed actress said. “He doesn’t want to be involved in this stuff, he just wants to play football. So, we need to let him play football.” Bullock has also remained a close friend of Oher, and she attended the 2013 Super Bowl, according to US Weekly.

Oher’s attitude about ‘The Blind Side’ today

However, Oher has more or less changed his tune on The Blind Side. Per Oregon Live: “Oher has come to terms with the fact the movie will always be a part of his life,” and he now gives the movie a thumbs up.

“It’s a great story,” the man who inspired The Blind Side acknowledged. “It’s helped so many people across the world. It inspired so many people. You’d be surprised how many letters I’ve gotten, people have adopted kids or how many lives have changed.”