Michael Oher shocked many when he filed a lawsuit in August against Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, seeking an end to the Tuohys' conservatorship over him and prohibiting the family from using his name and likeness. The legal showdown between Oher and the Tuohy family is a multifaceted dispute. The case is being closely scrutinized by many, as the dispute turns the feel-good story from "The Blind Side" on its head, and spotlights what can go wrong when selling the rights to your life story.
Domenic Romano spoke with Forbes and News Nation about the lawsuit to demystify the many moving parts that come into play when adapting a book into a movie. These issues are only made more complex when the book – and the movie – are based on a real person's life story.
Background On The Case
Michael Oher's remarkable journey from homelessness to NFL stardom, immortalized in Michael Lewis's "The Blind Side" book and box-office-hit movie by the same title, drew the world's attention. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, portrayed by Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw in the film, played a central role in Oher's life by offering him a home and support during his high school years.
In August 2023, Oher sued Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy to end their conservatorship over him and prevent them from using his name and likeness. Oher is also seeking money damages and a full accounting of any money earned off his name, likeness, and story for the last 19 years.
Oher claims that the Tuohys tricked him into signing a conservatorship when he was 18 years old that authorized them to make business deals in his name and manage his funds. Oher claims that the Tuohys made millions of dollars from "The Blind Side" and that he was never paid any share of that money.
The Tuohys vehemently deny all of Oher's accusations. They insist that Oher knew he was signing a conservatorship to help him gain admission to the college football program at Ole Miss, the Touhy's alma mater. The family denies earning millions from "The Blind Side" and maintains that all profits were split evenly with Oher.
Michael Lewis, the author of the book and a close friend of the Tuohys, spoke out against Oher's claims stating that despite the movie's success, no one involved in the book saw millions of dollars from the movie. The movie's producers have also denied that the Tuohys were paid millions for the film.
On September 29, 2023, a Tennessee judge ended the conservatorship, finding it disturbing that such an agreement was ever put in place over someone who was not disabled. The judge ordered the Tuohys to submit an accounting of the funds earned off Oher's name and likeness. The case is still ongoing.
In the realm of turning books into movies, legal complexities often underlie the captivating narratives. The case of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family serves as a stark reminder of the disputes that can arise when life stories are adapted for the silver screen. As the legal battle unfolds, it remains to be seen who will ultimately claim victory in this real-life drama
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