Collins Tuohy, Movie inspiration speaks out at Virginia Tech

November 11th, 2010

Movie inspiration speaks out at Tech

Wednesday, November, 10, 2010; 11:07 PM

by Patrick Murphy, features staff writer

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Collins Tuohy, the real life daughter portrayed in “The Blind Side,” began her speech by telling the story of how her family’s life was translated onto the big screen.

Tuohy’s father had recently reconnected with an old friend, Michael Lewis, who just so happened to be a writer.

After hearing the story of the Tuohy family adopting Michael Oher, Lewis’ wife actually told her husband he should write a short piece on the family.

Well, a short article turned into a short book and then a lengthier book. The work was so successful that the movie rights to it were purchased.

Still, Lewis assured the family not to worry because he’d had 10 books on the bestsellers list before, all had movie rights purchased and none had been turned into films.

However, this story was clearly different.

Director John Lee Hancock called the Tuohy household and announced he was going to make the movie and that Sandra Bullock would play the iconic mom.

There was just one problem — Bullock didn’t know it yet. Hancock proceeded to stalk Bullock, as Tuohy put it in her speech. Eventually, she caved and agreed to meet with the family in Memphis, Tenn.

When Bullock arrived, matriarch Leigh Anne Tuohy wasn’t quite ready for her.

She informed Bullock she had lots of errands to run, so the actress had no choice but to tag along. As Collins Tuohy noted, her mother likes to drive as fast as she can. This posed a problem for the former “Speed” star, who is actually quite afraid of going fast after being in a few accidents.

On one section of a narrow road, Leigh Anne Tuohy attempted to pass an 18-wheeler by whipping out her gun from the glove compartment, presumably to intimidate the trucker. At that moment, Bullock called up her then-husband Jesse James and said, “She keeps her gun in the same place you do. I am doing this project.”

That’s all it took. From there, the filming process snowballed and the cast and real life family have been enjoying the wake of its success ever since.

After discussing the interesting journey of getting the movie made, Tuohy went on to talk about the importance of giving back and making a difference in the world. To her, this is the Tuohy family’s message and the reason Hancock was so persistent to make the film.

She said that every day her family receives letters saying, “We adopted because of ‘The Blind Side.’” Tuohy hopes she can continue to inspire a positive change through her speeches and actions.

She stressed that you don’t have to be older to make a difference. Everyone can find something now to get involved in and be passionate about.

While the audience laughed during her comedic tale about her mother and Bullock, the crowd grew silent at the crux of her message, and it appeared to be well received. After a 30 minute speech, Tuohy stuck around for about an hour to answer all of the audience’s questions about the movie, her life and, of course, Oher.