Michael Oher, the subject of the Oscar-winning movie The Blind Side, filed a petition in a Tennessee court on Monday alleging that his story of being adopted by a wealthy white family and overcoming poverty was a lie that the family told to enrich themselves at his expense.
According to ESPN, a 14-page petition obtained by the network on Monday alleges that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy never legally adopted Michael Oher, who went on to star at Ole Miss and was a former first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. Instead, the petition claims that the couple tricked Oher into signing a document that made them his conservators, which gave them legal authority to make business deals in his name.
The Tuohys, who were Oher’s conservators, used their legal authority to negotiate a deal that gave them and their two children millions of dollars in royalties from the movie The Blind Side. The movie earned more than $300 million, but Oher received nothing.
Here’s more on what the petition alleges via the ESPN article:
The petition alleges that the Tuohys began negotiating a movie deal about their relationship with Oher shortly after the 2006 release of the book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” which chronicled the story.
According to the legal filing, the movie paid the Tuohys and their two birth children each $225,000, plus 2.5% of the film’s “defined net proceeds.” The movie became a critically acclaimed blockbuster, reportedly grossing more than $300 million at the box office, and tens of millions of dollars more in home video sales. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and Sandra Bullock won a Best Actress trophy for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy. While the deal allowed the Tuohys to profit from the film, the petition alleges, a separate 2007 contract purportedly signed by Oher appears to “give away” to 20th Century Fox Studios the life rights to his story “without any payment whatsoever.” The filing says Oher has no recollection of signing that contract, and even if he did, no one explained its implications to him.
The deal lists all four Tuohy family members as having the same representative at Creative Artists Agency, the petition says. But Oher’s agent, who would receive movie contract and payment notices, is listed as Debra Branan, a close family friend of the Tuohys and the same lawyer who filed the 2004 conservatorship petition, the petition alleges.
The Tuohys have denied making a lot of money from the film, released in November 2009, saying that they received a flat fee for the story and any of the movie’s profits. They also said that any money earned from selling the rights was shared with Oher.
However, the petition filed in court on Monday alleges that this is not what happened. The petition alleges that the Tuohys made money off the movie’s profits, including royalties, while Oher did not receive a penny. The Tuohys have allegedly been profiting off Oher’s story for years, without his consent.
“Beyond the details of the deal, the politics, and the money behind the book and movie, it was the principle of the choices some people made that cut me the deepest,” Oher wrote in his book When Your Back’s Against the Wall, which was released last week, according to ESPN.