In the aftermath of Michael Oher’s shocking lawsuit against his “adoptive” parents, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, audiences are looking at the 2009 film The Blind Side through a new lens. In addition to examining how overwhelming the white savior tropes are, there are questions about whether Oher received his fair share of the profits from the Oscar-winning movie. Per The Hollywood Reporter, in response, Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, co-heads of Alcon Entertainment, the production company that financed the movie, have released a statement about the film and the current controversy surrounding it.
In the statement, the producers tout how the film showcases “the better angels of human nature…in the Tuohys’ wonderful acts of kindness toward Michael Oher.” Of course, they think that, they made the movie. They did go on to celebrate Michael’s “extraordinary courage…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.” Those are some lovely words praising Oher, but it also sounds like more people lining up to protect their share in this man’s life story. Are they actually concerned about whether Michael was taken advantage of?
Johnson and Kosove make a point of noting how The Blind Side was initially set up at 20th Century Fox, and they inherited the life rights deal from the studio. The business partners also state that you can’t compare deals from 2006 to today’s economy. That may be true, but the movie basically launched a whole ecosystem of people making money off of being “The Blind Side” family, or author, or producers. Yes, he played in the NFL for a short time, but it feels like Oher has gotten the short end of the stick from his own life story.
“The deal that was made by Fox for the Tuohys’ 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,” Johnson and Kosove said in the statement. “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.”
That’s all well and good, but if Oher has been under a conservatorship with the Tuohys all these years, these producers don’t really know for sure if he was fairly compensated. What they’re doing here is trying to take the stink off their movie, and some nice platitudes about human kindness aren’t going to cut it.