Little-Known Facts About The Blind Side 10 Years Later
In November 2009, John Lee Hancock’s The Blind Side took audiences by storm. Based on the story of Michael Oher, the movie shows viewers how a once homeless young man became an All-American first-round draft pick in the NFL.
The caring and loving Tuohy family takes him in and are instrumental in helping him achieve success. Audiences loved the story, and the film soared to the top of the box office in no time. Ten years later, it’s worth revisiting this exceptional film to uncover the hidden truths you might not know.
The Real Collins Tuohy
Portrayed by Lily Collins in the film, the real Collins Tuohy completely shuffled around her class schedules and dropped out of many of her advanced placement classes in order to share more classes with Michael Oher. As a straight A student, that was quite a large commitment for her.
Ultimately, it was Collins Tuohy’s selfless dedication to helping Michael Oher graduate that allowed him to have a chance at college and the NFL. Despite his immense talent on the football field, Oher needed good grades, and Collins Tuohy took it upon herself to help him make it happen.
Casting Leigh Anne Tuohy
Sandra Bullock absolutely made The Blind Side‘s leading role her own, but — believe it or not — she wasn’t even the filmmakers’ first choice for the part. In fact, the lead was offered to Julia Roberts long before Bullock was considered. When Roberts turned it down, Bullock came next.
The rockiness didn’t stop there. During the first weeks of shooting, Bullock thought she was doing a horrible job. Director John Lee Hancock did his best to encourage her, resulting in her sticking with the role — and eventually winning an Academy Award.
Casting Michael Oher
The Blind Side tells the inspiring rags-to-riches story of a nobody-turned-football star, and there’s a surprising parallel that occurred behind the scenes. Before Quinton Aaron was cast in the leading role, he was working as a security guard.
After his audition, he was convinced he didn’t land the part. Discouraged, he handed his business card to the crew in an attempt to get hired as a security guard instead. Of course, Aaron had actually nailed the audition and landed the part from the moment the crew saw him. His success somewhat mirrored Michael Oher’s rise to fame.
Scaling Back Collins’ Talents
In the film, Collins Tuohy is portrayed as a teen of many talents. Depicted as a highly skilled volleyball player for her school’s team as well as a star cheerleader on the sidelines, Tuohy was also an award-winning pole vaulter. She even managed to make it to the state championship.
The film doesn’t waste the opportunity to show the real Collins as an Ole Miss cheerleader during the closing credits, but her status as a champion pole vaulter is something that not even the end crawl revealed. Apparently, it just didn’t fit in the script.
The Miracle of Taco Bell
Because The Blind Side is based off a book by the same name, there are all kinds of little details that couldn’t be used in the final draft of the screenplay. Still, Hancock wanted to include some Easter eggs from the book as a nod to readers.
One such scene occurs when the Tuohys are on their way home from S.J.’s play. Sean says that quesadillas saved the family from financial problems, which is a reference to the fact that Sean’s many Taco Bell franchises were struggling until the company introduced quesadillas. Sales skyrocketed.
While audiences view them simply as art or entertainment, a feature film is really quite a gamble for producers. After investing so much money and providing so many resources to get the film made, it’s important for them to see a return on their investment.
As the film’s lead, Sandra Bullock was so committed to the role that she was willing to take a significant pay cut in order to get the movie into production. In exchange for less money up front, the actress (wisely) opted for a percentage of the film’s profits.
The Sports Drama’s Legacy
No one can truly anticipate just how successful a movie will be when it’s released. Sure, the production companies can compare their ideas to other movies within the genre and make educated estimates, but the true numbers are never known until after opening weekend.
As evidenced by The Blind Side, some films completely go above and beyond what’s expected of them. To this day, Michael Oher’s inspiring story remains the highest-grossing American sports drama ever made, with a worldwide total of more than $300 million. No other U.S. sports-based film even comes close.
Other Financial Firsts
One way to guarantee audience members will show up to watch a particular film is to fill the cast with familiar faces. However, due to budget constraints or the nature of the script, sometimes only one famous face is cast.
In addition to The Blind Side‘s record-breaking box office success, the film also achieved another huge financial milestone. Because Sandra Bullock is the only actor whose name is listed on the poster, it became the first film with only a single actress’s name on the poster to gross more than $200 million at the box office.
Collins’ CEO Connection
Another little nugget of information that director John Lee Hancock included in the film for readers of the book comes after Collins Tuohy’s volleyball scene. Speaking to her mother, Collins says that she’s going over to Cannon’s house to study.
According to the book, Collins Tuohy was dating — and is now married to — a young man named Cannon Smith. As it turns out, Cannon Smith is the son of Frederick W. Smith. In other words, Collins dated and married the son of the founder, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of FedEx.
Preparing for the Role
Playing a star football player is no easy task. It’s not something that just comes naturally, especially for someone who has never seriously played the sport before. This is a simple truth that actor Quinton Aaron came to know all too well.
In order to fill the (very big) shoes of a soon-to-be-professional football player, Aaron had to practice with the Georgia Tech football team during the college’s spring training in 2009. Luckily for Aaron, it seems his hard work paid off. To the untrained eye, his portrayal of Oher really looks like the real deal.
The University of Tennessee and the FBI
One of the film’s most memorable characters is Kathy Bates as Miss Sue, a key figure in Michael Oher’s academic career. When Oher is talking to her about the University of Tennessee’s different degree programs, she lies to him about some of the darker aspects of the criminal justice program. One element rings true, however.
Thanks to William Bass, founder of the Bass Anthropological Research Facility (or BARF), the University of Tennessee helps the FBI study the different stages of decomposition in the human body in a plethora of different situations. If you don’t think BARF is ironic enough, the facility is also called “the body farm.”
Sandra Bullock’s Hot Streak
When The Blind Side was released in the fall of 2009, it gave Sandra Bullock her highest-grossing opening weekend by a longshot: $34,119,372 in the United States alone. Ironically, she continuously broke that record in the years to come.
In 2013, Bullock’s film The Heat surpassed The Blind Side‘s opening weekend, with $39,115,043 in ticket sales. Just a few months later, her film Gravity surpassed The Heat‘s opening with $55,785,112. Two years later, Minions — Bullock voiced Scarlett Overkill — blew them all out of the water with a whopping $115,718,405 on opening weekend.
Lawrence Taylor and Joe Theismann
In The Blind Side‘s opening monologue, delivered by Sandra Bullock speaking as Leigh Anne Tuohy, the audience hears about one of the most monumental sports injuries in the history of the NFL — the infamous hit between Lawrence Taylor and Joe Theismann in November 1985.
In real life, this injury was the NFL’s most gruesome to ever air on television during a regular season game. Taylor waves urgently for help almost immediately after, proving just how traumatic the injury must have been for him. To this day, Taylor claims he never wants to see a replay.
Oher’s Professional Career
Because the movie was released in 2009, and Michael Oher’s professional career with the NFL continued until 2016, there’s obviously a lot the film didn’t cover. For instance, the movie just barely touches on his time with the Baltimore Ravens, which began around the time The Blind Side hit theaters.
In the years that followed, Oher stuck with the Ravens, and they eventually made it all the way to Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers. Oher and the Ravens won, earning the star player his very first Super Bowl ring.
Meeting Michael’s Match
Despite his many issues with the way he and his story were portrayed in John Lee Hancock’s film, Michael Oher took it upon himself to visit the set of the film during the early days of production. Who knows? Maybe he hoped to set them straight.
However strange it might have been, Oher had to meet the actors who would be playing him and his parents — namely, Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. The four got along well, with Aaron and Oher being especially happy to meet on set that day.
Surprisingly, Michael Oher wasn’t the only one who had a problem with John Lee Hancock’s script. In addition to Oher’s objections regarding the way his educational career was portrayed, the actual school he was attending took the film to task as well.
After reading the screenplay, Briarcrest Christian High School — the school where Oher earned his diploma — refused to allow their name or their school to be used in the film because of its many misconceptions. Still, the filmmakers and the crew decided to use BCHS’s school color, green, as their fictional high school’s color.
The Real Michael Oher’s Reaction
When making a movie about people who actually exist, there’s a delicate balance the crew must maintain. It’s important to portray the subjects accurately while also making them engaging enough for audiences to care about them.
The real Michael Oher wasn’t very happy with the “balance” created by Hancock and the crew. He felt the movie’s take on his life was too simple and kind of insulting. He claimed he was always good at football, unlike the filmmakers’ decision to make him a hapless student who had to learn to play football alongside his studies.
College Football Cameos
Considering it’s a movie about football, it makes sense that the filmmakers leapt at the opportunity to include a bunch of real-life football coaches throughout the film. This is a pretty common phenomenon, and it’s a fun way to honor the actual pros who help make these stories happen.
Of the many cameos, some of the most notable include Tommy Tuberville of Auburn, Nick Saban of Alabama, Ed Orgeron of Ole Miss, Houston Nutt of Arkansas, Lou Holtz of South Carolina and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee. John Lee Hancock really pulled out all the stops.
The Cast’s Musical Roots
Even though The Blind Side is a movie about football, the film actually has an incredibly musical underbelly. Two of its main cast members — both playing members of the Tuohy family — are a musician and a direct descendant of a musician.
First, viewers might have missed it because of the fresh-shaved face and the missing cowboy hat, but Sean Tuohy is played by country music legend Tim McGraw. Despite being a household name in music for decades, McGraw has only occasionally worked in film or TV since 2004. The other musical member is Lily Collins, who is the daughter of British pop-rock artist Phil Collins.
The Cast’s Southern Roots
Playing a southern couple wasn’t too much of a stretch for Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. The two both have very strong connections to the American South. Bullock’s father was born and raised in Alabama, and she was born in Virginia. She went on to be a cheerleader in high school, dated a football player and went to college in North Carolina.
As for McGraw, he spent his first 20 years or so within the boundaries of Louisiana. Born, raised and educated all the way through college in the state, McGraw is a true Louisianan who happens to reside in Tennessee.
When Michael Oher is preparing for college with Miss Sue, she gives him a list of materials he needs to read. The literary texts she assigns aren’t completely meaningless. In fact, they allude to the trajectory of Michael’s life.
The three most notable examples of this are A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw — all novels about a protagonist who goes through a huge transformation and becomes a better person. The last two specifically deal with rags-to-riches narratives, much like Michael Oher’s.
Michael Oher’s High School Coach
In addition to the whole slew of college football coaches who make cameos in the film, there’s one coach with a very specific, personal connection to Michael Oher who makes an appearance. His former Briarcrest Christian High School football coach, Hugh Freeze, makes a brief appearance as an Arkansas assistant coach watching film behind Houston Nutt.
Later in the film, he is referenced by an NCAA investigator as someone who recently took a job at Ole Miss. Freeze continued to coach at Ole Miss until 2017 when a recruiting scandal forced him to resign.
Like the literary allusions made by Miss Sue while Michael Oher is preparing for college, director John Lee Hancock took the opportunity to include one very specific artistic allusion during the key Thanksgiving scene in the film. As the phrase goes, art imitates life. In this instance, art seemingly imitates art.
As Leigh Anne Tuohy is setting the table for the Thanksgiving meal, she sets the turkey in front of Tim McGraw’s character, Sean. For a moment, the family gathered around the table with Leigh Anne arranging the turkey mirrors a very famous Norman Rockwell painting.
The End of Oher’s Career
Unfortunately, it seems Michael Oher’s career as a professional football player came to an end just shy of the film’s 10-year anniversary. Considering he hasn’t been a member of a professional team since 2016, it’s safe to assume Oher is done playing football.
Tragically, almost seven years to the day The Blind Side was released, Michael Oher suffered a concussion during a professional football game in late November 2016. He was given nine months to recover but still failed his physical before the 2017 season. His current team, the Carolina Panthers, released him at that time.
Later Cast Collaborations
When a movie shoot goes well, it’s not uncommon for the cast and crew to work together again in the future. When one actor sees a former collaborator attached to a project being offered to them, it’s sometimes a surefire way to get them to sign on.
This has happened a couple of times with former Blind Side co-stars. For starters, supporting actors Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens and L. Warren Young all went on to work together on the Footloose remake in 2011, while Lily Collins starred with the movie’s almost-star, Julia Roberts, in Mirror Mirror.
Sean Tuohy After the Film
A film can only show so much, which means that a lot of the extra information gets trimmed in post-production. For films based on true stories, the credits often include a bit of “Where Are They Now?” moments to appease audiences wondering about the real people behind the stories.
For The Blind Side, this info is limited to the facts as of 2009. In the wake of the film, former Mississippi basketball icon and real-life patriarch Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) continued working as a broadcaster for the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team.
Possible Plot Holes
For scripted films, every single choice and every little detail is included for a reason. That’s why it’s so odd when features have plot holes — little details that slip through the cracks and threaten to derail a scene or even the entire film itself.
At the start of the film, Michael Oher is shown trying to get into school alongside a close friend of his named Steven. Steven’s storyline is quickly dropped entirely, but his father remains an integral part of Michael’s story. This hole leaves the audience wondering what happened to Steven and why he disappeared.
Leigh Anne Tuohy After the Film
Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy never failed to keep busy in the decade following The Blind Side‘s record-breaking run. After all, they would have been foolish not to keep up with the influx of popularity and recognition sent their way by the feature film.
In 2010, Leigh Anne published a bestselling book called In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving and started the Making It Happen Foundation to continue helping underprivileged youth. She then published a second book in 2015 called Turn Around and even earned herself a daytime reality show on the UP network.
S.J. Tuohy After the Film
S.J., also known as Sean Tuohy Jr., is just a young boy when The Blind Side takes place. Ten years after the film — and many more since the events actually occurred — S.J. is now a full-grown adult with a very successful career of his own.
In college, Sean Jr. earned a degree in journalism while also making quite the impression on his school’s basketball team. He even broke some records of his own, just like Michael. He went on to play football while pursuing a master’s degree, and he now coaches for the Razorbacks.
Collins Tuohy After the Film
Like her brother S.J., Collins earned a degree in journalism in the years following The Blind Side. Like her mother, she makes a living doing speaking tours that promote the values shown in the film — specifically the value of others and the dangers of judgment.
When she isn’t on speaking engagements, Collins is the co-owner and director of marketing and sales at Whimsy Cookie Company in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as a board member for her mother’s charity, the Making It Happen Foundation. On top of all this, Collins contributes to her own personal lifestyle blog.