The Blind Side, when released in 2009, proved to be potent box office fodder, pulling in more than $300 million worldwide. The film, based on a book by Michael Lewis, follows the life of Michael Oher who went from a homeless teen to a first-round NFL pick after being adopted by the Tuohy family. The film pulled in a litany of awards, including a Best Actress Oscar for Sandra Bullock and a Best Picture nomination for the film.
However, the story has come under scrutiny, with Oher now alleging that the narrative at the center of the movie wasn’t entirely true. Oher filed a petition to terminate conservatorship, claiming that the adoption at the center of the film was a lie built by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy for financial gain. Oher also alleged the Tuohy family made millions from the film, while he did not receive any financial compensation. Sean Tuohy called Oher’s allegations “insulting” and denied that the family made that much money from the movie. Instead, he claimed, “Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000 each.”
With an ongoing legal battle grabbing headlines, here is a look back at the film’s actors and the real-life characters they portrayed in The Blind Side.
Michael Oher, Quinton Aaron
Quinton Aaron and Michael Oher
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Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher
Quinton Aaron starred as Oher in a role considered to be his breakout performance. It earned Aaron nominations for Best Breakout Star at the MTV Movie and TV Awards, Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture at the Image Awards, and Best Actor at the BET Awards. The actor has had a steady list of credits since, but none as lauded.
Oher was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. He went on to win a Super Bowl with the team before spending time with the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers. He was a high school senior when he signed the conservatorship papers, per ESPN, and previously wrote that he was told there was little difference between adoption and conservatorship. “They explained to me that it means pretty much the exact same thing as ‘adoptive parents,’ but that the laws were just written in a way that took my age into account,” he wrote in a 2011 memoir, I Beat the Odds.
Sandra Bulllock, Leigh Anne Tuohy
Sandra Bullock and Leigh Anne Tuohy
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Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy
Bullock starred as Oher’s adoptive mother Leigh Anne Tuohy. The role earned her an impressive string of awards for Best Actress, including an Oscar, Critics Choice Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and more than a dozen nominations. One of the most beloved actresses of her generation, Bullock has led movies like The Proposal, Gravity, Miss Congeniality, Speed, and While You Were Sleeping to critical and commercial success.
The real Tuohy told EW in 2009 that Bullock “did a good job” portraying her on the big screen. “If she’d done a bad job, I’d have told you in a second — I’m all about being honest,” she said, adding, “And she has nice ta-tas. I was elated about that.”
Tim McGraw, Sean Tuohy
Tim McGraw and Sean Tuohy
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Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy
Three-time Grammy winner Tim McGraw portrayed Leigh Anne’s husband Sean. The movie marked the singer’s sixth film appearance, having previously appeared in movies like Friday Night Lights and Four Christmases. McGraw also contributed a song to The Blind Side‘s soundtrack.
Sean Tuohy, who worked as an NBA commentator for the Memphis Grizzlies and once owned more than 100 fast food franchise restaurants, has claimed that the family opted for conservatorship to avoid running afoul of any NCAA regulation as Oher had his eyes on playing collegiate football. “We contacted lawyers who had told us that we couldn’t adopt over the age of 18; the only thing we could do was to have a conservatorship,” he told the Daily Memphian. “We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court.”
Kathy Bates as Miss Sue
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Kathy Bates as Miss Sue
Jae Head and Sean “S.J.” Tuohy Jr.
Jae Head and Sean “S.J.” Tuohy Jr.
Jae Head as Sean “S.J.” Tuohy Jr.
Young actor Jae Head, who rose to prominence in the first season of Friday Night Lights, played Sean “S.J.” Tuohy Jr., Oher’s adoptive brother and the biological son of the Tuohys. Head also starred in Hancock and episodes of Yellowstone and How I Met Your Mother.
Like his father, Tuohy Jr. pushed back on Oher’s allegations during an interview with Barstool Radio, while maintaining his love for Oher. “I’m gonna preface this by saying that I love Mike at 16, I love Mike at 37, and I [will] love him at 67,” Tuohy Jr. told the show. “If he says he found out in February , I find that hard to believe.”
Lily Collins, Collins Tuohy
Lily Collins and Collins Tuohy
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Lily Collins as Collins Tuohy
Emily in Paris star Lily Collins played the Tuohys’ daughter, coincidentally named Collins, in one of her earliest screen roles. She has since become a dependable leading actress, with prominent roles in movies like Mirror, Mirror, Rules Don’t Apply, To the Bone, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The actress, who is the daughter of singer Phil Collins, was nominated for an Emmy as a producer on Emily in Paris, and received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance on the show.
Ray McKinnon, Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels,
Ray McKinnon and Hugh Freeze
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Ray McKinnon as Coach Cotton
Actor and filmmaker Ray McKinnon played Burt Cotton, the coach of Wingate Christian School’s football team. McKinnon won an Oscar for his short film The Accountant, and received praise for creating the SundanceTV series Rectify. McKinnon has appeared in films like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Apollo 13, and Ford v. Ferrari, as well as series like Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, and Mayans M.C.
Oher’s real high school football coach was Hugh Freeze, who currently coaches at Auburn University and formerly coached at the University of Mississippi — until he resigned following allegations of unethical recruiting tactics and the use of a university phone to contact escort services.
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Adriane Lenox as Denise Oher
Adriane Lenox portrayed Denise Oher, Michael’s biological mother. Lenox won a Tony for her performance in the original production of Doubt, playing the role that eventually earned Viola Davis her first Oscar nomination. Lenox has appeared in notable projects such as The Butler, The Blacklist, 30 Rock, Daredevil, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Denise Oher previously criticized the movie for portraying her as “the worst mother in the world,” though she also expressed gratitude toward the Tuohys, stating, “I’m grateful that they came. God placed them in our lives.”
Brandon Rivers as Young Mike
Young actor Brandon Rivers made his screen debut as the 7-year-old version of Michael Oher. He only appeared in three more projects: TV movie Solving Charlie, an episode of Let’s Stay Together, and an episode of Zoo. He is the son of actress Chan Ta Rivers.