'The Blind Side' director John Lee Hancock on good deeds and good stories

The 2009 feel-good, sports drama “The Blind Side” took Hollywood by surprise. With a production budget of only $29 million, the film to date has grossed more than $250 million domestically. It also gave actress Sandra Bullock an Oscar for her performance as the tough but loving Leigh Anne Tuohy.

“The Blind Side” is based on the true story of a homeless black teen whose life takes a dramatic turn when a wealthy, evangelical Christian woman sees him walking the streets at night and takes him home. Her family quickly embraces him and makes him part of the family. The once homeless and impoverished teen goes on to become an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL.

Director John Lee Hancock, who also wrote the screenplay, spoke to The Christian Post this week speaks here about what inspired him to make the film and his thoughts about churches that make movies.

“The Blind Side” is out in selected cinemas across the UK on March 26.

Did you expect “The Blind Side” to receive the success it did both at the box office and at the Academy Awards?

Hancock: All of it was a huge, unexpected, wonderful surprise. I mean, I thought the movie was really good and I thought people would like it. But you never know if people will go see it. It has been an amazing ride.

Have you received or heard any stories about how people were inspired by the film?

Hancock: Yes I have. Some you hear first hand and others are sort of anecdotal. Leigh Anne Tuohy lets me in on the different mails that she gets and the things that she has heard of that have happened, which is great. There was no expectation at all of that when you start a movie.

You set out to tell a good story. You don’t do it because there is a deep message involved because the movie is almost always bad when you do that. Your job no 1 is for it to be entertaining and if it’s inspiring that is great too.

I heard something about a food wholesaler who decided after seeing the movie that he would give all these free meals away for Christmas. Or someone who said that instead of writing a cheque I’m going to volunteer or I’m taking on foster care now.

I don’t know, it causes people to think outside the box in terms of their charitable acts and offerings and not just write a cheque but actually volunteering. It is not that everyone will adopt a child, but be a good neighbour.

Are you a Christian? Did your faith have anything to do with you choosing this project?

Hancock: Yes [I’m a Christian].

No. I thought it was a great story. The fact that the Tuohys are Christians played absolutely no part in me doing it or not doing it. I thought it was a great story. I think that if I set out to do stories based on that then it will probably be like the cart leading the horse. You look at the story first. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s an incredibly charitable act that yields rewards for this family. It would have been an also amazingly charitable act had the Tuohys been atheists. A good deed is a good deed.

The fact that they’re Christian is interesting and good and something I understood. But I wanted to be careful to not stereotype in any way because when you meet Leigh Anne Tuohy she does not fit with the Hollywood stereotype of a Christian. So I think you take that on to be as real as that person as possible.

What is your take on churches that enter the film industry, like Sherwood Church?

Hancock: I think that anybody with a strong will to tell a story then that is fantastic. I think it’s fantastic. I think sometimes people have what I’ll call an ulterior motive with a story. If I had gone into this movie saying what I’m trying to do is make a movie that will make more people want to adopt kids, the movie would be horrible. I promise you. Because I would be worrying about that instead of job no 1, which is I have to tell a good story and be entertaining.

Christian audience, I think, have grown very tired of movies that try to pander to them. For instance if someone goes, “Ok, we’re designing what we’re going to do with this movie. It’s a Christian movie and they’ll eat it up.” And you know what? Consumers are smarter than that. They go, “The movie isn’t that great and he thought that I would just be a sucker and plop my $10 down for it?” Because you’re looking down at the audience. You can’t pander to an audience.

I heard you are currently working on another movie. What is your next project about?

Hancock: I’m writing one right now. It is so hard to get movies made in Hollywood that you got to have six going at once, and you know, probably none of those get made. But the one that I’m writing right now is a true story from New Orleans. It’s the story of John Keller who during Katrina saved like 250 people’s lives.