Wednesday, November 03, 2010

TOP STORY > >Blount remembered as fine home-grown talent

By Joan Mccoy
Leader staff writer

Actress and producer Lisa Blount, who died last week at the age of 53 in Little Rock, credited her mother with getting her started in show business. When Lisa was 4, her mother, Louise, entered her in the Little Miss Cleburne County Beauty Pageant in Heber Springs, where she pantomimed the Teresa Brewer hit “Johnny Jingo.”

“She didn’t win,” said Louise, who now lives in Cabot. “My dad was with us and he was so mad, I thought we would have to tie him down.”

The family, in-cluding her dad Glen and brother Greg, moved to North Little Rock and Pine Bluff before settling in Jacksonville, where Glen was a co-owner with J.C. George of AGL, which built the first construction-laser level.

Lisa took dance, piano and voice lessons, her mother said. Her interest was always in the arts, so the family gave her the training she needed.

“We were so proud of our baby girl,” her mother said.

When she was 18, after graduating from Jacksonville High School and attending UALR in Little Rock, Lisa and a couple of friends went to Conway and auditioned for “September 30, 1955,” a movie about the hero worship surrounding the death of James Dean.

To her surprise, her mother said, she was chosen to co-star with Richard Thomas of “The Waltons” fame. The film also was the debut of Dennis Quaid.

Half of the movie was filmed in Arkansas and half in Los Angeles. When it ended, Lisa stayed in Los Angeles for almost a year, but no other parts came her way. She returned home and went back to college, but her heart wasn’t in it.

“She’d been bitten by the acting bug,” her mother said.

So with a little financial help from the family, Lisa returned to Los Angeles, got an agent and started looking for work.

She is best known for her co-starring role as Lynette in “An Officer and a Gentleman” which garnered a Golden Globe nomination, but her body of work also includes producing 

“The Accountant,” for which she won an Oscar in 2002.

She starred in “Chrystal” with Billy Bob Thornton. She also produced that movie, which was written and directed by her husband, actor Ray McKinnon, who is best known for his roles as the coach in “The Blind Side” and as Holly Hunter’s suitor in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”

During the filming of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” Lisa was in a car wreck that left her with nerve damage in her neck and shoulders. Although she had several surgeries, the damage was irreversible and she was in almost constant pain, her mother said.

Virtually unable to continue working, Lisa and her husband moved to the Hillcrest neighborhood in Little Rock in 2005.

Her health appeared to be im-proving, her mother said. She was supervising the restoration of her 100-year-old home and together they hunted through local shops for the right antique pieces to decorate it and for the vintage clothing that Lisa loved to wear.

Since Glen, a retired Cabot de-veloper, is now in bad health, Lisa called every day to check on him, even on the days she was unable to get out of bed. She talked to her mother Sunday evening, Oct. 24. When she didn’t call again and Louise couldn’t reach her on the phone, she went to her home last Wednesday and found her dead.

“I knew when I opened the door that it wasn’t right,” her mother said. “I went upstairs and found her.”

The results of the autopsy were inconclusive, she said.

Phone records indicate that she likely died on Monday or Tuesday of last week.

“We think she went suddenly. We think it was an aneurism,” her mother said.

Lisa’s memorial service was Monday at Quapaw Quarter Methodist Church in Little Rock, just the kind of beautiful old building she loved, said her mother.

Lisa lived in California for more than 30 years, but her mother said she missed Christmas in Arkansas only one time and she usually came home at least twice a year. 

“I’m so glad we had the last few years together,” her mother said. “I wish you could have known her. She was sunshine.”