Oscar-winner, Fayetteville Native Lisa Blount Dies at 53

by Gwen Moritz, Amanda Holezeman and Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010 4:29 pm  

Oscar-winning actress Lisa Blount, seen here in a cover shot for Little Rock Soiree magazine, has died. The Fayetteville native was 53.

Lisa Blount, the Oscar-winning Fayetteville native and actress most famous as Debra Winger's best friend in the film "An Officer and a Gentleman," has died. She was 53.

Blount's mother, Louise Blount, found her in her Little Rock home on Wednesday. The cause of death is not known.

(Photos: Click here for a slideshow of photos from Blount's career and 2009 Little Rock Soiree photo shoot.)

Blount was married to actor and screenwriter Ray McKinnon, who appeared on HBO's "Deadwood" and most recently as a high school football coach in the Sandra Bullock film, "The Blind Side." She and McKinnon won a 2002 best short feature Oscar for the film "The Accountant." She had recently shot the pilot for a new FX television series, "Outlaw Country," starring John Hawkes and fellow Arkansan Mary Steenbergen.

McKinnon had been in Atlanta for the past month but had been notified of his wife's death and was set to return on Wednesday.

On Sept. 9, Blount was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.

According to a police report released Thursday, Louise Blount went to her daughter's home at 300 N. Woodrow St. after phone calls to her daughter went unanswered. Inside, she found Lisa lying face up in her bed, blood seeping from her nose and a cell phone in her hand.

Louise told police that her daughter had suffered for 17 years from a condition similar to multiple sclerosis, and that Lisa had recently complained of pain to her neck and back. Four prescription pill bottles were on the bedside table containing Triamcinolone paste, Hydroxyzine Pamoate, Tramadol and Benzonatate. Each bottle had pills remaining, the police report said.

Triamcinolone is used to treat several conditions, including eczema, arthritis, lupus and the prevention of asthma attacks. Hydroxyzine Pamoate is used to treat itchiness and allergies, as well as anxiety. Tramadol is used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. And Benzonatate is used for coughs due to cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, or other lung infections.

Determined to Act

Lisa Blount was born in Fayetteville in 1957 and raised near Pine Bluff. She grew up in Jacksonville and graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1975.

Smart and determined to act, she left high school at an early age to begin college at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Although she didn’t have a high school diploma, she says she "acted" her way in, claiming her diploma must have gotten lost in the mail. By the time school officials caught on to her, she was on the dean's list.

Her film career included 1982's memorable "An Officer and a Gentleman," co-starring Richard Gere. She also acted in a number of thrillers and action movies that required a great deal of physical strength.

"At that time in my life, I was very fit," she told Little Rock Soiree in a June 2009 cover story. "I was looking for something new to do, and I started boxing. I got into it, and I really enjoyed it."

It was one of those horror films that she injured herself.

"I hurt myself, and I didn't pay much attention to it. I just thought, 'That’s life, and that’s just how it is with athletics. You do hurt, and that’s just part of it.'"

But when she finally saw a doctor, he discovered that her body had begun an auto immune response to injury, creating internal scar tissue that squeezed against her nerves and left her with immense chronic pain. The condition was only made worse by surgeries, which caused the development of more scar tissue.

"Initially, I was still able to work, but I could see that unless I got better, this was going to diminish my ability to work as an actress," she said.

It was on another horror film, 1993's "Needful Things," based on the Stephen King novel, that she met her future husband, McKinnon. They married in 1998.

After living 28 years in Los Angeles, Blount and McKinnon had recently moved back to Arkansas. One reason: to make great Southern movies.

"They think the accents are right, but we all know different," she said.

Among the films the two collaborated on and shot in Arkansas was 2004's "Chrystal," in which she starred with McKinnon and fellow Arkansan Billy Bob Thornton.

The immersion in Arkansas culture and community allowed Blount and McKinnon both to step away from the spotlight a bit and focus on their writing and producing.

"You can only rely on memories for so long. You need life experiences that are current if you're going to tell stories about what you know," she said. "This is where we need to be."



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