Alcon Entertainment, the company that produced The Blind Side, broke its silence Thursday after more than a week of the movie generating headlines as the subjects of the film traded accusations of ill-intentions and shakedowns. In a lawsuit filed Aug. 14, former NFL star and Blind Side subject Michael Oher said he was cheated out of profits for the film by the family at its center. But Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy have said they split profits from the movie with Oher and accused him of a $15 million “shakedown.”
Now Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, the co-heads of Alcon, are defending their Oscar hit, released in 2009, calling the accusations that the film’s true story was fabricated “mischaracterizations and uninformed opinions.” They also released an accounting of payments made in relation to the life rights to the project. (The deal was initially made at Fox, but Alcon inherited it when the company acquired the film.)
“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,” they write. “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).”
In his lawsuit, Oher noted that the Tuohys were repped by CAA, but he was repped by Tuohy family friend Debra Branan, not CAA.
The Blind Side, based on the 2006 nonfiction book by author Michael Lewis, told the story of Oher, a promising high school football prospect who was taken in by the Tuohy family when he was a senior. Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, and the project went on to gross $309 million at the box office. In his lawsuit, Oher said he was unaware that he was under a conservatorship by the Tuohys, and had believed they had adopted him. Oher claimed the couple signed a life rights deal with 20th Century Fox granting the couple and their two children $225,000 and 2.5 percent of all future net proceeds, with Oher receiving nothing. A day after the suit was filed, the couple said through an attorney that Oher attempted to extort them out of $15 million, while author Michael Lewis later backed the couple, stating he as well as the Tuohys received $350,000 from movie profits, and that the family planned on splitting their share with Oher, who declined royalties. Lewis, a childhood friend of Sean Tuohy, said this was possibly a prelude to the lawsuit.
Read the full statement from Alcon 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 Tuohys’ 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’ 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 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.
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.