NFL Star Claims Hit Movie About His Life is Built on Falsehoods
Michael Oher is suing the couple who he claims never actually adopted him.
When The Blind Side hit theaters in 2009, the true story behind the filled warmed hearts around the world. In the film, Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a well-off white woman who adopts a troubled black teenager named Michael Oher, and helps guide him into a successful career in the NFL and gives him the family he always dreamed of. However, according to the former football player, the movie's Hollywood ending was far from the truth. He has filed a petition against Leigh Anne and her husband, Sean, for making up a lot of the story – including that they actually adopted him – and profiting from it. He also says he hasn't seen a penny of the money or residuals from the blockbuster film that earned Sandra Bullock a Best Actress Oscar.
A central plot point in the movie is that the Tuohy family adopted Oher. However, in his petition, he maintains that while they told him they had adopted him, they had actually just set up a conservatorship so they could have control over all his money.
He claims that the couple persuaded him to sign papers that appointed them conservators with the power to act on his behalf in contract negotiations. However, at the time, he was an adult.
Since then, "the Tuohys have falsely and publicly represented themselves as the adoptive parents," it says. "The lie of Michael's adoption is one upon which the co-conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their ward."
The Tuohys reportedly negotiated a contract with Twentieth Century Fox to make the movie "based on Michael's life story," the petition says. They "negotiated for themselves and [their two] natural-born children a contract price of $225,000 plus 2.5 per cent of all future 'defined net proceeds'" of the film that went on to make more than $330 million. It also states that in a separate contract, Oher "appears to give away to Fox, without any payment whatsoever," the rights to his life story.
The petition, filed in Shelby County probate court in Tennessee, is asking for the conservatorship to be dissolved and demands to see where the money went. It claims he is suffering "continuing damages due to the ongoing misuse of his name, image and likeness" by the Tuohys, and demands that he be paid what he is owed of the proceeds from his story, along with compensatory and punitive damages. The Tuohys' lawyer, Steve Farese, says the claims are "insulting," the conservatorship is on the "up and up," and the family will file an answer to the petition in court.
He also claims the family didn't profit from the film. "Well, Michael Lewis, [who wrote the book on which it was based] gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each." However, in an interview with Barstool, the Tuohys' son, Sean Tuohy Jr, said he had received between $60,000 and $70,000 in royalties in the years since the film came out.
Oher's attorney, J Gerard Stranch IV, adds that Mike was "devastated" when he learned the truth. "Mike didn't grow up with a stable family life," he said. "When the Tuohy family told Mike they loved him and wanted to adopt him, it filled a void that had been with him his entire life. Discovering that he wasn't actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply."
Oher wasn't a fan of the film because "he was portrayed in the movie as unintelligent," Stranch said. "Their relationship continued to deteriorate as he learned that he was the only member of the family not receiving royalty checks from the movie, and it was permanently fractured when he realized he wasn't adopted and a part of the family."