The Tuohy Family, Subjects of The Blind Side, Inspire Audiences Across America

February 3rd, 2010

Already a huge hit with a box office take of more than $238 million, the Memphis-based “The Blind Side” earned a different type of validation Tuesday when it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

As expected, the movie also received a Best Actress nomination for Sandra Bullock for her portrayal of tough-talking, pistol-packing Memphis mother Leigh Anne Tuohy.

The Oscar recognition not only elevates the status of FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith's motion-picture production company, Alcon Entertainment, but it also vindicates the company's decision to produce a “family values” feature film about a conservative Christian family that studios such as 20th Century-Fox rejected because “they thought the story was too good to be true,” Leigh Anne Tuohy said.

“I would love to see how many people at Fox are not employed because of this movie,” said Tuohy, who said she began “screaming, I was so excited” when she heard the Oscar news. “I would like to know their names personally, so I could call them up and go 'Ppppttthhh!' into their phones. But that's just me!”

Smith said the nomination demonstrated that Alcon — now in its 10th year of business — has “hit its stride.” Also now in theaters is another Alcon hit, the apocalyptic fantasy “The Book of Eli” with Denzel Washington, which has earned more than $75 million in less than three weeks.

Shot in Atlanta to take advantage of Georgia's economic incentives for filmmakers, “The Blind Side” was one of 10 movies nominated Tuesday for Best Picture, in a field expanded from five nominees for the first time since 1943.

Based on the book by Michael Lewis, “The Blind Side” tells the true story of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, a married couple who bring Michael Oher, an impoverished, inner-city teenager, into their affluent East Memphis home.

A football prodigy, Oher recently completed his first year with the Baltimore Ravens. This week, he's in town “babysitting Sean Junior,” according to Mrs. Tuohy, who added that the success of the movie “has changed all of our lives, in a good way.”

She said she and other family members now are represented by the Greater Talent Network celebrity speakers bureau, to give motivational and inspirational speeches to audiences attracted by the movie.

Smith's daughter, Molly, who was an executive producer of “The Blind Side,” said writer-director John Lee Hancock was “the genius” behind the film, for “pulling such a powerful story out of that book, which I think struck a chord with the country.”

Molly Smith — currently preparing a film adaptation of the best-seller “Something Borrowed,” to star Ginnifer Goodwin of Memphis — said “The Blind Side” demonstrated that an “inspiring” story can draw audiences. “I don't think enough movies are made like 'The Blind Side.'”