‘The Blind Side’ Producers On Michael Oher Lawsuit Controversy: “Many Mischaracterizations & Uninformed Opinions”August 25, 2023
Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, the co-founders of The Blind Side financier Alcon Entertainment, who also served as producers for the supposedly true-life family drama, have addressed controversy stemming from a recent lawsuit filed by pic’s subject Michael Oher, claiming there have been “many mischaracterizations and uninformed opinions” put out about the situation, and that the film they made is “as true today as it was 14 years ago.”
“THE BLIND SIDE is verifiably authentic and will never be a lie or fake,” the pair stated, “regardless of the familial ups and downs that have occurred subsequent to the film.”
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Former NFL star Oher’s petition filed in Tennessee court alleges that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the couple depicted in the film as his good-hearted adoptive parents, tricked him into a conservatorship to secure legal authority over business deals in his name, depriving him of profits from the film while mischaracterizing the true nature of their relationship.
The Tuohys’ attorney Marty Singer referred to the suit as part of a “shakedown effort” on the part of Oher, with Michael Lewis, the author of The Blind Side‘s source material, also weighing in to suggest that “the Hollywood studio system” is more at fault for Oher’s lack of profit participation than the Tuohys personally.
While addressing the legitimacy of the story The Blind Side was telling, Alcon’s Johnson and Kosove also today spotlighted “the business side of the equation” in great detail, addressing the profit participations (or lack thereof) at the center of Oher’s suit. “The deal that was made by Fox for the Tuohy’s and Michael Oher’s life rights was consistent with the marketplace at that time for the rights of relatively unknown individuals,” their statement read in part. “Therefore, it did not include significant payouts in the event of the film’s success. As a result, the notion that the Tuohys were paid millions of dollars by Alcon to the detriment of Michael Oher is false.”
A feel-good box office hit from director John Lee Hancock, The Blind Side watches as the Tuohys (Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw) take in the impoverished and abandoned teenager Oher (Quinton Aaron), helping him to accomplish his dreams of a pro football career. The film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar led Sandra Bullock to nab her first, for her turn as Leigh Anne Tuohy, and grossed over $309M worldwide.
Read the Alcon principals’ full statement on the Blind Side controversy below:
As the Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Alcon Entertainment, the company that financed THE BLIND SIDE, as well as being two of the movie’s producers, we feel it is now important for us to respond to some recent media reports, which include many mischaracterizations and uninformed opinions. The impetus for these stories has been a lawsuit by Michael Oher, which seems to have given critics and journalists alike a justification to unfairly pick apart the movie fourteen years later – some going so far as to call it “fake” or a “lie.”
THE BLIND SIDE was a film that no major studio would make, back when Alcon financed the film in 2009. The prevailing “wisdom” was that a football movie starring a woman would not appeal to football fans, it had too much football to appeal to families, and that movies starring Black actors don’t work overseas. Our opinion was that it would appeal to everyone, and, in 2009, when this country, and the world more broadly, was more hopeful and less divided – it did. The two of us are the longest-running interracial business partnership in the history of the film industry. We have led not through publicity or pontification, but rather through the quiet power of example.
In the story of THE BLIND SIDE we saw the better angels of human nature. We saw it in the Tuohy’s wonderful acts of kindness toward Michael Oher. However, more importantly, we saw it in the extraordinary courage that Michael Oher demonstrated in accepting the Tuohys’ generosity not as a handout, or as his saviors, but as a way through which he could improve his own life. Michael’s academic accomplishments and athletic achievements demonstrate this. His raising of his own children now, who shall know a life of possibility the likes of which Michael never knew as a child, is the ultimate testament to Michael’s own strength and courage. In both of those regards, THE BLIND SIDE is verifiably authentic and will never be a lie or fake, regardless of the familial ups and downs that have occurred subsequent to the film. Indeed, scores of trusted individuals, not the least of whom is Michael Lewis, one of our country’s most respected writers and journalists and the author of the book THE BLIND SIDE, have spoken of their first-hand knowledge of the authenticity of the Tuohys loving Michael dearly and raising Michael as their son through the end of high school, and then throughout college and onto the NFL.
We also want to speak to the business side of the equation, which it seems, in part, is where some of the current antipathy in the press toward the film is sourced. The film rights to Michael Lewis’s book, and the associated rights contracts were negotiated by Twentieth Century Fox and inherited by Alcon when the film was put in turnaround. It is important to note that in 2006, the nature of life rights deals for books, documentaries and film, as well as the limitations of what college athletes were able to do and maintain eligibility, were very different than they are today. Comparing them to today’s marketplace for those rights is akin to comparing a basketball Hall of Famer’s deal from 25 years ago to the nine-figure deals that are prevalent in today’s NBA. The deal that was made by Fox for the Tuohy’s and Michael Oher’s life rights was consistent with the marketplace at that time for the rights of relatively unknown individuals. Therefore, it did not include significant payouts in the event of the film’s success.
As a result, the notion that the Tuohys were paid millions of dollars by Alcon to the detriment of Michael Oher is false. In fact, Alcon has paid approximately $767,000 to the talent agency that represents the Tuohy family and Michael Oher (who, presumably, took commission before passing it through). We anticipate that the Tuohy family and Michael Oher will receive additional profits as audiences continue to enjoy this true story in the years to come. In addition to these contractual payments, Alcon made a charitable contribution to the Tuohy family foundation. We offered to donate an equal amount to a charity of Mr. Oher’s choosing, which he declined.
In November, it will be 14 years since THE BLIND SIDE was released by our distribution partner, Warner Bros. Looking back, the two of us passionately believed that THE BLIND SIDE was a story that should be told. John Lee Hancock had done a brilliant job adapting Michael Lewis’ book and we knew John Lee would direct a thoughtful and uplifting film. Furthermore, we believed that the amazing Sandra Bullock’s work as a dramatic actress was underappreciated, and we thought Quentin Aaron’s screen test was a revelation. Goodness knows, the two of us are hardly correct all the time, but we sure were right about our decision to make this film. The best human characteristics displayed in THE BLIND SIDE might be easy to dismiss in the bizarro world of elitist film critique and social media cynicism. However, in the real world, they form the basis of a healthy society and they ought to be celebrated. We are as proud of the film today as we were when our amazing collaborators made the movie 14 years ago. We hope our fellow filmmakers all over the world will continue to look for uplifting stories to tell, and have the freedom and empowerment to have their voices heard.
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