The celebrated story of Michael Oher, former NFL athlete and the subject of the best-selling book “The Blind Side” by Michael Lewis, has taken an insane turn over the past week. Oher has filed a lawsuit against the Tuohy family, claiming they never officially adopted him and accusing them of financial misdeeds related to movie profits. Now, author Lewis has defended the Tuohys and pointed fingers at Hollywood’s accounting system as the real culprit.
In 2006, Lewis’s book spotlighted Oher’s heartwarming journey from a troubled youth to an accomplished football player, largely credited to the benevolence and support of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. The narrative was later adapted into an award-winning movie in 2009, starring Sandra Bullock.
However, the harmony of the feel-good story depicted on the big screen seems drastically different from the current situation we’re seeing unfold now. Oher’s lawsuit alleges that the Tuohys tricked him into signing over the legal authority to use his name in business deals after his 18th birthday, thereby cheating him out of future proceeds. He asserts they profited off the Oscar-winning movie while sidelining him financially.
Responding to these allegations, the Tuohy family labeled Oher’s claims a “shameful shakedown” and voiced intentions to end the conservatorship, a legal concept where an individual is appointed to manage another’s financial and/or personal affairs.
Adding fuel to the fire, the Tuohy family’s attorney, Martin Singer, claims that before initiating the lawsuit, Oher tried to extort the family for $15 million. Singer alleged Oher threatened the Tuohys with negative press unless the hefty amount was handed over.
But Michael Lewis, in interviews with both The Washington Post and at a previously recorded Google event, blames Tinsel Town for the mess. Lewis slammed Hollywood studios (the film was produced and distributed by Warner Bros.) for their accounting practices which, according to him, often shortchange those whose real-life stories inspire box office hits.
“Everybody should be mad at the Hollywood studio system,” Lewis said. “Michael Oher should join the writers strike. It’s outrageous how Hollywood accounting works, but the money is not in the Tuohys’ pockets.”
Lewis further divulged that both he and the Tuohy family made about $350,000 each from the movie after considering taxes and agent fees. Challenging Oher’s narrative, Lewis asserted that the Tuohys intended to share movie royalties among family members, including Oher. However, Oher reportedly began declining these royalty checks. In a move showcasing the Tuohy’s good faith, Lewis revealed they deposited Oher’s share in a trust fund designed for Oher’s son.
The emotional depth of this disagreement is palpable. A resurfaced 2007 video featured Lewis jokingly commenting on Oher’s academic achievements, hinting at deeper undertones about universities potentially compromising academic standards for athletic ability.
Lewis, reflecting on the present situation, expressed incredible sadness over the whole situation, especially considering his close ties with Sean Tuohy since their childhood.
“What I feel really sad about is I watched the whole thing up close,” Lewis added. “They showered him with resources and love. That he’s suspicious of them is breathtaking.
“The state of mind one has to be in to do that — I feel sad for him.”