When the movie The Blind Side came out in 2009, it was an instant hit. The film, based on the 2006 Michael Lewis book of the same name, told the story of Michael Oher, an offensive lineman who was adopted by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, a white family from Mississippi. In the movie, the Tuohys take in Oher, who’s homeless and portrayed as quiet and a slow learner in education and football. The Blind Side grossed $309 million at the box office, and Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Since the film’s release, however, Oher has contested its accuracy. He says he was a good student once he had access to a consistent education and had studied football since he was a kid. And, as critics pointed out when the movie was in theaters, there’s certainly a “white savior” element to the story. In August 2023, Oher filed a lawsuit, claiming the Tuohys didn’t actually adopt him, but rather created a conservatorship. Doing so gave them the legal rights to make business deals using his name. Oher alleges the Tuohys crafted a deal that earned them and their two kids millions from the movie’s royalties while Oher was left on the sidelines with no money.
Oher is requesting that the court end the Tuohys’ conservatorship and ban them from using his name and likeness, as well as being paid his share of profits plus compensatory and punitive damages.
The producers of the film recently shared how much they’ve paid in royalties. And…it’s not nearly as much as you’d think, given the success of the film.
In the midst of the lawsuit, Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, the founders of Alcon Entertainment, have released a statement about the movie.
“The notion that the Tuohys were paid millions of dollars by Alcon to the detriment of Michael Oher is false,” Johnson and Kosove wrote. “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.”
Doing a quick bit of math, after the talent agency took a 10% cut we are left with $690,000 split by the four members of the Tuohy family and Michael Oher. That’s $138,000 per person, pre-tax.
Johnson and Kosove also noted how life of rights deals were different in 2006 than they are today. Then-fairly unknown people like Oher and the Tuohys wouldn’t receive massive payouts if the film did well at the box office.
Yet Oher is singing a different tune. His lawsuit alleges the Tuohy’s two children were each paid $225,000 and received 2.5% of the movie’s defined net proceeds. Remember, the film made $309 million at the box office — even after accounting for things like distribution fees, marketing spend, and other expenses, that’s not an insignificant sum of money.
We’ll see how the lawsuit shakes out, but just like his path to the NFL, it looks like Oher is fighting an uphill battle.