Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw Talk About 'The Blind Side'

The Cast of The Blind Side
Tim McGraw, Lily Collins, Jae Head, Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock in 'The Blind Side.'. © Warner Bros Pictures

Even if you're a football fan you may not know the heart-wrenching story of Michael Oher, the subject of the Warner Bros Pictures' movie The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Quinton Aaron. Oher's mother was a drug addict, he didn't know his father, and was basically raised on the streets. But all that changed when he met the well-to-do Tuohy family.

Leigh Anne Tuohy invited him into their home one rainy night and from that moment on, Michael, who'd never had a bed of his own or people to rely on, became a part of the Tuohy clan.

With the family's help and support, Michael upped his grades and became a stand-out offensive lineman at Briarcrest Christian School. Oher was pursued by just about every major college, but signed with the Tuohys' alma mater: University of Mississippi. He currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens after being the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft.

Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw - The Blind Side Press Conference

You’re playing people who are real but aren’t famous so the audience wouldn’t know them. When you go about that, what are you looking for? Do you try to imitate them or do you try to capture the spirit of that person?

Tim McGraw: "I think more of the spirit. I wasn’t really trying to imitate anybody. I wouldn’t want to imitate Sean for anything. I think that I can relate to him in a lot of ways. We both grew up in Louisiana. I was an athlete and he was an athlete, although I wasn’t quite the athlete that he was.

And also, as a kid I remember - I’m going to give him a few years and say high school - but I remember watching him play for Ole Miss. As a kid growing up in northern Louisiana, we got to see a lot of Ole Miss games, and I have a wife that runs everything at home so I think I can relate to Sean in a lot of ways.

The script was so well written that I just wanted to capture the essence of it and not really try to imitate anybody."

Sandra Bullock: "That’s a tough one because I do think that I tried to get as close – I mean, you don’t meet an energy like Leigh Anne’s ever. She might not be famous here but she’s known in other places, and I felt a great sense of fear in trying to tackle that person she is, but also a great sense of obligation to be true to this wonderful dynamic. John [Lee Hancock] could not explain Leigh Anne to save his life, and when I met Leigh Anne, I said, 'Now I know why you can’t, because she’s original.' But there’s such a dynamic that exists between those people and their children that you wanted to pay homage to them. I wanted to do it as closely as I could, so I did my best."

Sandra, what was it about the character of Leigh Anne on the page, as opposed to before you actually got to meet her and work with her, that appealed to you as an actress?

Sandra Bullock: "Initially, when I was approached with the film, it was a beautifully written story. You could see it play out. I didn’t know how to play Leigh Anne. I didn’t know how to approach it or what I could bring to it, so I just kept saying, 'No, this is not going to work for me.' Then John said at one of our meetings, 'Why don’t you just come meet Leigh Anne?' So I met Leigh Anne for the whole day and I left there completely exhausted because of the energy she has, but in love with this human being, and who she is at this time on the planet.

But I still didn’t know how to play her, had no idea. I didn’t know how to bring that to life and be truthful and do a good job with it. I don’t know at what point I said yes. I don’t recall. I don’t think I ever said yes. Yeah, I like scary films. [Laughing] I don’t think I ever really agreed to do the film."

Sandra, what was it about this story that really resonated with you the most?

Sandra Bullock: "First of all, it was a beautifully executed book, especially for someone who’s been around football players her whole life and still knew nothing or cared anything about the game. By the end of the game, I was in such awe of what it takes to be an athlete and what the coaches contribute to these children’s lives, and how they support and push and inspire, and I had a real sense of jealousy that they got to experience that and I never did as an athlete or as someone who is able to be brought to that point.

But even though I didn’t think I could make this movie, the inspiring part of this movie is, here’s this family that does this, didn’t do it because someone was writing an article or a book or making a movie, did it because that’s where the instincts said this is what we’re going to do, and we’re going to give love and reach out a hand. And everyone came and questioned them, of course. We don’t trust anyone who does anything nice. That’s just the sad world we live in. But they didn’t care and they kept going. It makes you feel like you need to step up your game. So whatever wonderful actress was going to play Leigh Anne Tuohy, it was going to be an inspirational story of a true life story that we’re capable of so much more than we think we are, because we don’t really live in a world that supports the good that we could do. They all want us to do something bad, so it sells some papers or some news report."

Sandra, can you talk about the local theater actors in Atlanta you worked with?

Sandra Bullock: "We just assume all the great actors are in New York first and then L.A. second, and it’s so not true. It’s a testament to John and his casting finding the best people for the role, and there’s such amazing talent everywhere. It’s exciting that now that there are these sort of new Hollywoods or new filmmaking communities that really benefit from these great faces and character actors and leading actors that just are fresh and exciting and bring an authenticity to the piece, and that’s smart casting too, and that’s John."

Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw - The Blind Side Press Conference

What was it like for you to walk on the set with the caliber of actors and director, and what are you taking away from this experience? What did you learn from it?

Sandra Bullock: "The caliber of actors that these three are, I’m speaking about the children, the caliber working with these three was extraordinary. They might not have had as many years as we do under our belt, but you’d never know that walking on the set.

The love and the joy and the comfort and the professionalism that these three gave on a daily basis, the hardest part is listening and reacting to what an actor gives you, and they would floor me. You’d see either one of them behind the camera. Once we told Quinton [Aaron] that, yes, you do have to show up for my close-up when you’re not on camera, it was astounding. And it doesn’t require a lot of years in the business, because we’ve worked with people who have been in the business many years and don’t even show up for your off-camera, but it’s amazing the professionalism that you get from these guys. I’m so excited to see what they do with their lives and their craft, because if this is where they are now, I cannot imagine what they’re going to accomplish."

Sandra, what impact did Leigh Anne have on you? Is it that she’s so courageous? Do you now, months later, think, "I should do that because that’s what Leigh Anne would do?" Do you ever hear her in your head? Has she ever tipped the scales for you?

Sandra Bullock: "WWLAT do? That’s what I would say on set. 'What would Leigh Anne do?' The nice thing is we get to play these people and get to experience lives that we normally would never come in contact with. And the beauty of Leigh Anne was, one of my biggest questions was how people use their faith in their religion as a banner and then they don’t do the right thing.

But they go, 'I’m a good Christian, and I go to church, and this is the way you should live your life,' and I told Leigh Anne, I said, and that was in a live interview we had, I said, 'One of my largest concerns stepping into this was that whole banner-hold.' I said, 'It scared me because I’ve had experiences that haven’t been great. I don’t buy a lot of people who use that as their shield.' And she was so open and honest and forthright, and I said, 'Wow, I’ve finally met someone who practices but doesn’t preach.'"

"We’re so quick to tell people how to live their lives and I’m so lucky that I’ve been able to stay on my path, even though I’ve deviated sometimes, but I’ve never felt like I was okay by 100%, didn’t really matter, but then you meet someone who blazes trails and they do it as a family and you feel validated for taking your trip rather than someone else’s."

"In terms of what she’s getting, she goes, 'This is the last time I’m doing this. I’m not doing a press junket anymore, this is it. This is your thing.' I consistently say, 'This is your story, it’s not my story.' But she has no idea the path she’s begun, in terms of adoption and fostering. It’s not been on the forefront of people’s minds.

It is on the forefront of my mind every day now when I get up. When I look around I go, 'Is he, is she, what is their situation?' And it’s because of this family, and I think what they are going to do for our country in terms of being aware of that is – I don’t think they realize the profound affect that they are going to have. So I’m happy that being me is great for me, and you see this family, they were themselves for no other benefit other than because they wanted to reach out, lend a hand, and had no idea that they would get a son in return."

What about that knockout wardrobe?

Sandra Bullock: "How about that wardrobe, Leigh Anne Tuohy? Hello! Everything I wore was what Leigh Anne wears. Every design label was what Leigh Anne would wear. Every make-up was from her pallet. Her watch was her watch.

Her nightgown was her nightgown. I remember saying, 'John, you’ve got to email Leigh Anne and ask her what nightgown she wears.' And you see John going, 'Ohhhh,' because he knew what the reply was going to be. All he gets back from Leigh Anne is, 'Ya’all need to get a life.'"

"So I’ve had the blessing of having my - not a restored faith - but I now have faith in those who say they represent a faith. Whereas before I was like, 'Do not give me a lecture on how to live my life when I know I’m a pretty decent human being. I might not go to church every day, but I know I do the right thing or try to. You’re going to church and you’re still sleeping around on your wife and spending everyone’s money. How are you better than I am?' So I’ve finally met people that walk the walk and it’s made me happy, really happy."

Sandy, are you going to go back to being blonde? How did that feel?

Sandra Bullock: "I like blonde highlights, but I needed to have the whole thing. I would have to change my whole wardrobe. There was a very important person in my life who just didn’t want me being blonde. Thank God. Thank God, there was not an appreciation. There was a little person who thought I looked like an angel, but then there was a big person that said, 'I don’t like the blonde on you. Take it off.' And you want him to say that, and that’s what’s fun about it."

Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw - The Blind Side Press Conference

Tim, are you going to get serious about movies and give up that country music thing that you do?

Tim McGraw: "I’m not going to give up music because it pays my bills. I thought I was serious about this particular acting job. I tried to be anyway. I have to find things that fit in a time schedule that I have. I only have a few months out of the year that I’m available to do something.

I was so lucky that something this great and with this quality of people to work with came along at a time that I was available to work. But I’m not going to give up music, no."

You had another huge hit with The Proposal. Why do you think that movie clicked so well, and what do you look for in a role these days?

Sandra Bullock: "The Proposal, aside from all the right people and the right elements being in the right place, I think nudity had a great deal to do with the success of that film. Had I known that, I would have done it a long time ago. And picking roles, my way of choosing them is vastly different now than it was a long time ago, but I can only be that way now because of what I’ve learned from the past. So I’m choosing now not to choose any work, because when you’ve had such a nice ride, unexpected rides and fulfilling rides, you really don’t want to take a step backwards. It’s really made me satisfied in a way that I wasn’t looking for, but I was blessed with it and now I feel really full, in a good way, where I don’t need to rush out and go find something.

I don’t want to."

When did that change take place exactly?

Sandra Bullock: "Which change?"

Where you said, "I no longer pick roles the way I used to."

Sandra Bullock: "The fact that I’m staring at a stack of scripts and I can’t bear to open them. I don’t want to step into that world right now. I want to enjoy where I am.

So I don’t know. I think it was over time just having good life experiences that I was actually cognizant of in my work and could remember and was very satisfied with, and I just want to enjoy the ride instead of blasting forward and trying to fill a void that doesn’t exist in the workplace."

What about producing? Do you want to slow down that side of your professional life as well as the acting?

Sandra Bullock: "To me, the producing falls into the same as acting. It requires so much time out of your life, and I take it very personally, I realize. So if I do something, it just has to be something I love and I don’t want anyone else to do. When I open projects, maybe something will appeal to me. I think I’m not opening them because I don’t want anything to appeal to me right now. I’m so happy where I am right now. I don’t want to be tempted to move from this place that I am. I’d like to just be happy where I am, and I think that’s producing and acting right now."