|REEL FACE:||REAL FACE:|
Born: August 15, 1984
Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
Born: May 28, 1986
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Born: July 26, 1964
Arlington, Virginia, USA
Leigh Anne Tuohy
Born: August 9, 1960
Born: May 1, 1967
Delhi, Louisiana, USA
Born: November 23, 1959
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Born: April 2, 1998
Sean Jr. (S.J.) Tuohy
Born: July 4, 1993
Born: March 18, 1989
Guildford, Surrey, England, UK
(Daughter of singer Phil Collins)
Born: December 29, 1986
Born: June 28, 1948
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Sue Mitchell (Miss Sue)
Born: August 5, 1945
"I just think Michael needed somebody, and it was so evident that there was nobody in his life. It just broke my heart," the real Leigh Anne Tuohy said in a December 2009 20/20 TV interview.
Like in The Blind Side movie, Michael Oher's birth father was murdered. He was shot and killed, then thrown off an overpass on the west side of Memphis. Michael didn't learn of his father's death until three months after it happened, partially because it took time for his father to be identified. Tony Henderson, who helped Michael get into Briarcrest, called the school office with the news of Michael's father's death. Michael's father hadn't been around when he was growing up. -The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
The character in the movie who refers to himself as Tony Hamilton is based on Tony Henderson (aka Big Tony), who in real life runs an athletic program that mentors teens in his neighborhood. Recognizing Michael's unstable home life, Tony took Michael in. "He was a good kid," Tony recalls. "He was real quiet and especially stayed to himself." Like in The Blind Side movie, Tony took his teenage son Steven to be enrolled in Briarcrest Christian School, and he brought Michael along with them (20/20). In real life, Tony worked across town as a mechanic, as stated in the movie (Evolution of a Game).
In the movie, the Christian school that Michael attends is named Wingate and is the home of the Wingate Crusaders football team. Through our research into the Michael Oher true story we discovered that the real name of the school is Briarcrest, home of the Briarcrest Saints. "It wasn't adversarial, there were just concerns," Briarcrest president Mark Merrill said. He noted that there were several school administrators who were concerned over instances of "artistic license" in the original script that stretched the truth. -CommercialAppeal.com
Yes. According to the Michael Lewis book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, the football coach at Briarcrest, Hugh Freeze (referred to as Burt Cotton in the movie), did encourage his colleagues to accept Michael's application.
No. When researching The Blind Side facts vs fiction, it was revealed that due to Michael Oher's poor and nearly non-existent academic record as of 2002, the principal at Briarcrest insisted that he participate in a home school program for a few months first to get his grades up. -The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
Prior to Briarcrest, Michael had been to 11 schools in 9 years, often skipping class. During one year at Westwood High School, he was absent 51 days. By his freshman year of high school his grade point average was .06. "It was easy for me to say, ya know, 'I'm going to hang out with these guys and do drugs and not go to school,'" Michael said, "but I decided I didn't want to do it. I wanted to be something in life." -20/20
No. The real Sean Tuohy did first spot Michael Oher when he was sitting in the stands of the Briarcrest gym, but it was during basketball practice, not Sean's daughter's volleyball game. At that point, Michael was still academically ineligible to play on the Briarcrest boys basketball team. -NYTimes.com
No. Unlike what we see in the movie, in real life Leigh Anne's husband Sean started paying for Michael's lunch at school before his wife encountered Michael on the side of the road. A fictional account of this can be seen in the DVD's deleted scenes. -Author Michael Lewis Interview
Yes. Early in the movie, Mrs. Boswell (Kim Dickens) reads the beginning of an essay that the real Michael Oher wrote, which he titled "White Walls." In reality, he actually wrote the essay later during his senior year, as he reflected on his initial days at Briarcrest Christian High School. Mrs. Boswell is based on the real life Marilyn Beasley, a biology teacher at Briarcrest who discovered that Michael did much better when his tests were administered orally. The beginning of Michael's "White Walls" essay reads:
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." -Evolution of a Game
"There were a few artistic liberties taken in that scene," the real Leigh Anne Tuohy told Mike Huckabee during a Fox News Channel interview. Unlike the rainy nighttime scene in the movie, The Blind Side true story reveals that Leigh Anne's encounter with Michael on the side of the road really happened on a cold morning during Thanksgiving break. She and her husband watched Michael get off a city bus in the snow wearing only cutoff blue jeans and a t-shirt. Like in the movie, Michael was on his way to the school gym in order to escape the weather and find warmth. In reality, Leigh Anne didn't offer Michael a place to stay immediately. Instead, their encounter on the side of the road on that snowy November morning in 2002, prompted her to pick Michael up at Briarcrest the next day and take him shopping. She couldn't ignore that he had been out in the cold in cutoff jeans and a t-shirt, the same outfit he was seen wearing every day. -Evolution of a Game
No. In reality, it took months after the roadside encounter before the Tuohy family welcomed Michael into their home. For months, Michael actually continued staying with Tony Henderson (aka Big Tony), the mechanic whose son also attended Briarcrest Christian School. And for months after that, at least five different families, both white and black, provided Michael with a place to stay after his coaches realized that he didn't have a home. This eventually included the Tuohy family. "He'd stay here once in a while and then he'd leave," says Sean Tuohy, "and then he seemed more comfortable to stay." (20/20) With regard to the Tuohy family, the real Michael Oher 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." -Evolution of a Game
Yes. Leigh Anne works as an interior decorator and is a graduate of the University of Mississippi. After Michael Oher made it to the NFL and moved to Baltimore to play for the Ravens, Leigh Anne helped him decorate his suburban home.
No. In real life the Tuohy's daughter Collins was a state champion pole vaulter. She was also a high school cheerleader, as seen in the movie. -Good Morning America
Yes. Being one of twelve children growing up in the projects, the real Michael Oher never had his own bed. Like Sandra Bullock's character does in the movie, Leigh Anne bought him a futon to sleep on since her husband told her that the larger pro athletes use them if they can't find a bed big enough. -NYTimes.com
Yes. As in the movie, most people who knew Michael Oher referred to him as "Big Mike". This included the people he knew back in Hurt Village where he grew up and the people he met at Briarcrest Christian School. Like in The Blind Side movie, in real life he admitted to Leigh Anne that he hated to be called "Big Mike". -Evolution of a Game
When he was 15-years-old Michael was 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 350 pounds (20/20). In 2010 as a member of the Baltimore Ravens NFL team, Michael Oher was listed at 6-4 with a weight of 309 pounds (BaltimoreRavens.com). His onscreen counterpart in The Blind Side movie, Quinton Aaron, is 6-8 and weighs 472 pounds (20/20).
No. This was grossly exaggerated in the movie. Michael did not have to learn how to play football, and Leigh Anne never walked onto the practice field to inspire Michael by telling him to protect his team as if he was protecting their family. The film's suggestion that he needed to be taught how to play football upset the real Michael Oher, "That part right there, it really got me because it was never like that. I've always known how to play the game of football. I've always had a passion for the game. You know, it's Hollywood, so I mean that's what they do, but at the end of the day it's still a good story."
No. "I've always had that fire and passion in me on the field," says Michael. "You can't put aggression into a person. It's impossible. Either you have that toughness and aggression or you don't." -20/20
No. As the real Michael Oher stated above, he already knew how to play football. When Michael Oher was taken in by the Tuohy family, the Tuohy's son S.J. (Sean Jr.) was 8-years-old at the time (NYTimes.com). Actor Jay Head, who portrays S.J. in the movie, had just turned 11-years-old when filming began, although onscreen he looks to be a few years younger than he is and more in line with the true story. The real S.J. was not nearly as small either. He was by no means the pipsqueak that we see onscreen. Michael and S.J. did play sports together recreationally, but S.J. didn't have to teach him anything.
No. As Michael Lewis states in his book, when racist fans were taunting him, the real Michael Oher flipped them the bird.
Yes. During a scrimmage against a team from Munford, the defensive end who lined up across from Michael delivered a hefty dose of trash talk with every play, threatening Michael and calling him fat. Like in the movie, when the opportunity arose during a play later in the game, Michael lifted his trash talking opponent up by his pads and began to carry him off the field, through the Munford bench, across the cinder track and toward his bus. In real life, Michael got the Munford player up to the fence but not over it (unlike what we see in the movie) before a group of Munford players piled on top of him. Unsure what penalty to call, the refs penalized Michael for "excessive blocking", the same unusual penalty called in the movie. -Evolution of a Game
Yes. In the movie, Leigh Anne's (Sandra Bullock) friends ask her intrusive questions about Michael during a lunch gathering. The real Leigh Anne Tuohy commented on this in Michael Lewis' book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, "We knew people were going to have issues because we had a daughter exactly the same age," Leigh Anne admitted. Leigh Anne faced countless questions from people she encountered at shops, restaurants and school events, all typically asking, "How have you handled it?" More specifically, one of the questions they often asked her was how she handled Michael's sexual urges, him being a teenage boy living under the same roof as her daughter. Eventually, Leigh Anne let her opinion of this line of questioning be known, "You just need to mind your own business. You worry about your own life and I'll worry about mine," she said.
"It had nothing to do with what color Michael was or how big he was," Leigh Anne told 20/20 interviewer Deborah Roberts. "He was a child that had a need, and it needed to be filled."
Yes, but in real life this happened on a regular basis, as Sean Tuohy pointed out in an interview. "He made us sit around the dinner table. But if we were going to spend time with him, we'd come eat at the table. We haven't eaten at the table since he left," Sean stated jokingly. -20/20
No. Gang members never taunted Leigh Anne. However, once when she was dropping Michael off after taking him clothes shopping, he did tell her to stay in the car like his character does in the movie. The main gang member in the movie, Alton, is loosely based on Delvin Lane, the leader of a gang that hung around the Hurt Village housing projects. As emphasized somewhat in the movie, Michael never associated with such individuals. His closest friend from his old neighborhood was Craig Vail, whom he often told the Tuohy's about and later brought to their home. Craig was a person Michael could trust, who never expected or asked for anything. -Evolution of a Game
Yes. Like in The Blind Side movie, the Michael Oher true story confirms that he was legally adopted by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy.
"I don't understand why people would feel that way," the real Michael Oher said, "because as long as somebody is helping somebody and taking somebody off the streets, I don't care, you know, black or white or whatever, it should never be a problem." -20/20
Yes. In The Blind Side movie, the Tuohys hire Kathy Bates' character, Miss Sue, to tutor Michael. In real life, Sue Mitchell spoke about her routine with Michael, "We worked hours and hours every day. He would come home, he'd take a shower and we would work until at least 11:30 every night. And we did this six nights a week." (20/20) By his senior year at Briarcrest, Michael was making the honor roll (Author Michael Lewis Interview).
In The Blind Side movie, the tutor, Miss Sue (Kathy Bates), admits to Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) that she is a liberal who is more spiritual than religious. In real life, Leigh Anne Tuohy met Sue Mitchell at a sorority function. Sue was a retired public school teacher and cheerleading coach. It's true that Sue Mitchell was turned down a job at Briarcrest Christian School because she didn't share their religious beliefs. It's also true that she was a liberal, to which the real Sean Tuohy replied, "We had a black son before we had a Democrat friend!" -NYTimes.com
Yes. In the movie, a distracted Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) doesn't see a landscaping truck backing out in front of him as he and S.J. are on their way to get the new Madden videogame that has just come out. The Blind Side true story reveals that the accident actually happened in icy conditions when Michael's truck skidded across the divide traveling at 25 miles per hour and crashed head-on into a big van, which was also moving at 25 miles per hour. When Leigh Anne first arrived on the scene of the accident, she approached Michael who was sobbing uncontrollably to the point she could hardly understand what he was trying to tell her. -Evolution of a Game
In real life, S.J.'s injuries looked much worse than what we see in the movie. In addition to blood being on his shirt, S.J.'s face was so severely swollen that his mother almost didn't recognize him. Surprisingly, despite the swelling, no bones were broken. -Evolution of a Game
Yes. When Leigh Anne came home from the hospital, she delivered the news that S.J. was okay and that the doctors were amazed that his facial injuries weren't more severe. It was then that Michael held out his arm to show Leigh Anne the unsightly burn mark that ran down the length of it. -Evolution of a Game
Yes, Leigh Anne's husband Sean is one of three partners who operate RGT Management, Inc., a corporation that owns more than 80 restaurants under the Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Off the Grill brands. RGT's stores can be found across Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri. -Memphis Business Journal
What's not mentioned in The Blind Side movie is that Sean Tuohy also works as a sports commentator and as of 2009 was in his ninth season as a broadcaster for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. He also has seven years experience serving as a broadcast analyst on radio programs at Ole Miss, in addition to working on national broadcasts for Westwood One and CBS Radio. -NBA.com
Yes. Although it's not focused on in the movie, Michael Oher's basketball talent made him runner-up high school Player of the Year in Tennessee.
The southeastern conference (SEC) coaches who appear in the movie are portrayed by the actual coaches who recruited Michael Oher. This includes former Notre Dame and then South Carolina coach Lou Holtz, former LSU coach Nick Saban, former Arkansas coach (and current Ole Miss coach) Houston Nutt, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, and ex-Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, who actually won the fierce recruiting battle for Michael Oher. -ESPN.com
"What's in it for me," S.J. asks the recruiters in movie, making demands such as being allowed to lead the team onto the field. "I don't know if it's quite like that," the real S.J. admitted. "I think Jay [John Lee Hancock] might have pulled me off better than I pull myself off." S.J.'s parents interjected, "He worked those coaches pretty hard," Sean Tuohy added. "Don't let him fool ya." (Huckabee) Lewis' book states that the only sort of perk S.J. got was a tour through The Grove (a popular campus tailgating spot) from Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron.
In his February 2010 article "Why 'The Blind Side' is Too Good to be True", Entertainment Weekly columnist Mark Harris is critical of some of Michael Oher's methods to become eligible for the NCAA, stating that Oher's methods largely trash educational ethics.
Michael had nothing but D's and F's until the end of his junior year. However, he made all A's and B's during his senior year, but with no more classes to take, he could at best only finish with a 2.05 grade-point average. This was a problem since the NCAA required a 2.65 GPA (NYTimes.com). Regarding Michael and the Tuohy's questionable academic efforts to fix this problem, columnist Harris focuses on 10-day internet courses that Michael took his senior year from Brigham Young University, in order to replace existing F's on his transcript with A's. Harris refers to the courses as "an NCAA eligibility trick." The author of The Blind Side book labels the practice as "the great Mormon grade grub." Sean Tuohy had gotten the idea from a friend and the effort was being managed by Michael's tutor Sue Mitchell. (Evolution of a Game).
Sean Tuohy selected a series of 10-day online BYU character courses for Michael to complete over the summer with Sue Mitchell's help. All that each course required students to do was to read a few brief passages from famous works or speeches and then answer five questions on it. A's that Michael earned in these character courses could be used to replace existing F's that he had earned in high school English courses. Sean's strategy for Michael almost didn't work because even after he had been accepted to Ole Miss, the NCAA said that his GPA was still a bit too low to play college football. Sean quickly enrolled him in another BYU internet character course and on August 1, 2005 the NCAA finally accepted him. -NYTimes
Another loophole that Sean had found was that since Michael had been certified as learning-disabled, he was allowed to retake the ACT tests as many times as he wanted and Miss Sue was on hand to help him analyze the questions. Recouping a small amount of points on the ACT meant that he needed less on his GPA, since the NCAA had a sliding scale when it came to ACT scores and grade-point averages. If you had a higher ACT score, then you didn't need as high of a GPA to be eligible. -Evolution of a Game
In the movie, Michael is questioned by an NCAA investigator over whether or not Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy had a grand plan for Michael to go to their alma mater Ole Miss. When interviewer Deborah Roberts suggested to Leigh Anne that some people think that she and Sean took a black teen in to mold him and make him what they wanted him to be, Leigh Anne responded by saying, "Nobody has the guts to say that to my face. No one has ever said that to my face. And if they did, I would tell them don't let the door hit their butt on the way out." -20/20
No. Michael did not get into a fight with gang members in his old neighborhood. However, after researching The Blind Side true story, we discovered that while he was in college at Ole Miss, Michael got into a fight with teammate Antonio Turner who had visited the Tuohy's home. At some point after his visit, Turner called Michael a cracker for living with a white family. Antonio also made comments to Michael suggesting that he was going to have sex with Michael's white sister and white mother (similar to the comments made by the gang member in the movie). This infuriated Michael who chased after Antonio and eventually tracked him down hiding at the study hall where the football players studied with their tutors. Michael threw the 230 pound Antonio into the ground, picked him up by the throat, beat him in the face and threw him across the room. In the process, the 3-year-old son of one of the tutors was knocked to the floor and suffered a bad head wound. The small white boy laid on the floor in a pool of his own blood. When Michael saw what had happened to the boy, he ran off. Antonio was taken to one of the coaches homes for protection. At Sean Tuohy's urging, Michael eventually turned himself in to the campus police, and Sean called his friend, well known attorney Steve Farese. Michael ended up making apologies and was given ten hours of community service. -Evolution of a Game
Regarding Michael going back to his old neighborhood to see his mom, it is stated in author Michael Lewis' book that whenever Michael Oher went back to his old neighborhood bad things often happened. For instance, on one occasion Michael arrived at his birth mother's apartment to find her being arrested. She had been driving around in a truck that had belonged to a man who turned up murdered. The police asked Michael what he was doing there and then took him into custody to central lockup. Sean had to get him out.
Yes. The real Leigh Anne Tuohy went online and found a picture of the cutest little black baby she could find. The picture appeared in the senior program at graduation, not blown up on stage like we see in the movie. -NYTimes.com
"Ole Miss was right down the road," Michael said, "and I figured it would be easier for my family, you know, my friends to get down to Oxford to come see me play." (ABCNews.go.com) He received more than a thousand letters from college football recruiting programs, with Penn State being the only major football school that didn't offer him a full scholarship. -Evolution of a Game
Michael was a sophomore when he came to Briarcrest. He began staying regularly at the Tuohy's in the fall of his junior year, 2003 (NYTimes.com). He remained with the Tuohys until he left for college at Ole Miss. Officially adopted by the family, Michael returned often to visit, sometimes bringing players from the Ole Miss team with him (Evolution of a Game).
Yes. At the end of the movie, Michael's tutor, Miss Sue (Kathy Bates), is shown on his college campus making a comment about moving her things into an apartment nearby. In real life, Michael's tutor, Sue Mitchell, did continue to tutor Michael at Ole Miss. -Evolution of a Game
Yes. Michael graduated from the University of Mississippi (aka Ole Miss) after playing football for the Ole Miss Rebels for four years. While attending Ole Miss, Michael made the dean's list. He and the Tuohy's daughter Collins were the same age in real life (they were a year apart in the movie). Collins also went to college at Ole Miss, which allowed the two of them to grow even closer due to their shared experiences.
In 2009, Michael was selected as the 23rd pick in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. The entire Tuohy family was with him at the draft, in addition to his tutor Miss Sue and his older brother Marcus. He entered the league as a starting lineman on the Ravens team, signing a $13 million contract. In his rookie season Michael started every game and was named the NFL's Rookie of the Month for December 2009. Oher finished second to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin in the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting (BaltimoreRavens.com).
Yes. Eight years after they brought Michael into their home, the Tuohys are just as devoted to him. On game days, they take a private jet to go see him play. -20/20
Michael, 23, bought his own home and lives in suburban Baltimore. Leigh Anne, an interior decorator, helped him to spruce it up. "I definitely came a long way," says Michael. "Growing up in the projects in some of the roughest parts in Memphis. …it was a long road. Everyday I'm like, 'wow, how did I get here?'"
The Blind Side credits song is called "Chances" by the group Five For Fighting. The song can be found on the The Blind Side Movie Soundtrack and on Five For Fighting's album Slice.
Before auditioning for the part of Michael Oher, a then 23-year-old Quinton Aaron was working as a security guard. He was living in a rough neighborhood in the Bronx with his brother and mother, and it was his mother who discovered the casting call online. After director John Lee Hancock saw Quinton's tape, he flew him out to Los Angeles to meet in person. After the meeting, Quinton gave Hancock a card with his contact information and offered to work as a security guard on the movie set if he didn't get the part. -20/20
It took a year before casting was complete and Quinton was notified that he got the part. During that time Quinton's mother had died and he was unable to pay his rent. On the verge of being evicted from his apartment, he got a phone call telling him that he got the part. Quinton drew from his own personal experiences to help relate to his onscreen character. -20/20
In the new afterword to the paperback edition of his book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, author Michael Lewis writes that the purpose of his story was to "examine the many forces—chance encounters with a family, big changes in football strategy—that affected the value of this one unlucky turned lucky boy." Lewis says the thing that impressed him was that Michael Oher, who was 6 foot 2 inches tall and 350 pounds at the age of sixteen, and ran a 4-9-40, was already considered by many to be bound for the NFL. Michael Lewis is a non-fiction author and financial journalist. He is married to former MTV news anchor Tabitha Soren.
As diagrammed with the Joe Theismann/Lawrence Taylor footage at the beginning of the movie (see below), Michael Oher's position on the football field is left tackle. It is the left tackle's job to protect the quarterback's blind side.
Watch interviews and video exploring the Michael Oher true story. See the complete footage of the Lawrence Taylor hit on Joe Theismann that is featured at the beginning of movie. Watch interviews with the Tuohy family and a separate interview with author Michael Lewis that further explores The Blind Side facts vs. fiction.
WATCHLawrence Taylor Hit on Joe Theismann
During the November 18, 1985 telecast of
Monday Night Football, viewers watched in
shock as the New York Giants' Lawrence
Taylor delivered a career ending sack on
the Washington Redskins' quarterback Joe
Theismann (opening scene of The Blind
Side). May be too graphic for younger
viewers and the squeamish.
WATCHAuthor Michael Lewis Interview
Watch an interview with Michael Lewis,
author of the book The Blind Side:
Evolution of a Game, which became the
basis for the Sandra Bullock movie. Lewis
discusses what inspired him to write the
book about Michael Oher.
WATCHMike Huckabee Tuohy Family Interview Part 1
Mike Huckabee interviews the real Tuohy
family, including Sean and Leigh Anne
Tuohy and their children, Collins and SJ.
WATCHMike Huckabee Tuohy Family Interview Part 2
Part 2 of Mike Huckabee's interview with
the real life Tuohy family depicted in the
Sandra Bullock Blind Side movie.
WATCHCBN News Piece on Michael Oher
This report features Michael, the Tuohys,
and Tony Henderson (aka Big Tony), who
helped to look after Michael prior to his
time with the Tuohy family. Big Tony was
also responsible for getting him into
Briarcrest Christian High School.
WATCHThe Blind Side Trailer
Sandra Bullock stars as southern mother
who takes in and adopts a black teenager,
whose immense size and athletic ability
enable him to have a future that he never
dreamt possible. Based on actual events.