|It's been said that the noblest acts of charity are those no one hears about. Still, some magnanimous gestures prove so life-changing that Hollywood can't resist turning them into inspirational movies. In The Blind Side (PG-13), a big, tenderhearted kid adrift in the seedy Memphis projects gets a hand up from a wealthy family that offers him a warm bed on a cold night. Then, after opening their home to Michael Oher, the Tuohys opened their hearts, eventually adopting him. "Big Mike" developed a love for football and earned a scholarship to Ole Miss. Today he's an offensive tackle with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. We had a chance to talk with Quinton Aaron, the young actor who got his big break playing Michael Oher on the big screen:|
Quinton, you're 25 years old and have only been acting for a few years, is that right?
Yes. My first on-camera movie was Be Kind Rewind. We shot that in '06.
Tell us what it was like that first day on the set. There you are, a young actor playing an athlete—a real person no less—opposite Sandra Bullock. Were you at all intimidated?
I think I was too excited to be intimidated. I was nervous sometimes. But Sandra was so cool to work with. She had a way of assuring me that everything was gonna be alright, and I should just do the job that I came to do and love to do. She had a way of making me feel at ease.
What was it like working with director John Lee Hancock?
It was awesome working with him. I called him "Coach Lee" because he was so good at setting the tone for what he wanted each scene to be like. He did such an amazing job directing. He could put a visual picture in my head of what he wanted from me in whatever scene we were doing.
How about the football side of things? Were you already a fan?
I actually became a big football fan this year. I've been to a lot of college games, especially Georgia Tech games, because that's where I trained for the movie. I also caught a lot of NFL games this year—specifically the Ravens games.
Did Michael set you up with Ravens tickets?
No, I caught 'em on TV. I haven't actually met Michael or talked with him yet.
In The Blind Side, your character is rescued from a difficult situation by a loving Christian family. Is it true that you were going through some challenges in your own life when this opportunity came along?
Yes. When I auditioned for the role, my mom submitted me for it. But my mom passed away months before I found out I was actually gonna do the movie. Then I went from her passing away to me and my brother, who is 21, not having enough money to pay for rent and almost becoming homeless. It's always been me, him and my mom. We had other family members that we could turn to for help here and there, but there's only so much they can do. So I auditioned for the role in November 2007 and didn't hear that I got the part until January 2009 because the movie got put on hold. It started at Fox Searchlight, and I guess they pulled it out of Fox into Alcon and Warner Bros.
As much money as The Blind Side has made, Fox must be regretting that decision.
Well, I thought so too, but then they did Avatar, so they can't be hurting too bad. [Laughter]
At Focus on the Family, we're extremely invested in orphan care and adoption initiatives. As you studied for the part, did Michael's story—combined with your own recent loss—do anything to drive home the value of adoptive families and the needs of kids who don't have parents at home?
What the movie did was a blessing, not only to me but to a lot of people. I say that because I hear about so many kids who've been inspired to follow through with their dreams. And also I'm hearing a lot more about families adopting kids. It's inspiring people who are in the position to help someone to actually help someone, and it inspires kids in bad situations to be positive and believe they can succeed. I'm part of a charity organization called the Beating the Odds Foundation that mentors troubled teens throughout the country. I get to go in and encourage them by letting them know where I came from and how I overcame those situations.
What was it like watching the finished version of The Blind Side for the first time?
The first time I got to see the final film was at ShowEast. That's where they show the movie to distributors throughout the country so that they'll want to play it in their theaters. Before watching it, me and the director went up on stage and spoke to the audience and everything, and then sat down and watched it. I was amazed at the finished product. At work every day you know what's gonna happen in which scenes, but then to see it put together, you're like, Wow! You're shocked and amazed like everyone else.
Why do you think The Blind Side has impacted so many people since that first screening?
It's a script about a kid from a bad situation who made something very positive out of it, and he's in the NFL right now. For people to see him playing professional football at the same time they're seeing the movie, they'll realize this can actually happen. The story is only five or six years old. Michael was just drafted in 2009, so it's not like people can look at it and say, "Well, that happened years ago. It's not really like that. Today it's different." No, it's a recent story, which makes it even more powerful.
How has the movie changed your life?
Things are very different now. A year ago this month I was almost homeless. We didn't have money to get food, no money for transportation. We didn't have lights. We were almost put out of the apartment. Now I have an episode of Law & Order SVU airing March 24, and I'm getting ready to go to New York to work on a guest-starring role on another television show.
Published March 2010