Sunday, November 28, 2010

Remembering Lisa Blount

Like many others, I was shocked to learn of the death of actress and producer Lisa Blount last month at the age of 53. She won an Academy Award for producing the short film The Accountant, which was directed by her husband, Ray McKinnon. And she won fame many years earlier for her memorable performance in An Officer and a Gentleman.

Yet I will always think of her first and foremost for her debut film, James Bridges's September 30, 1955. As Billie Jean, an Arkansas teenager obsessed with James Dean, Blount gave one of the film's best performances. And this was a cast that included such wonderful actors as Richard Thomas, Collin Wilcox, and Tom Hulce, among others.

Because I was then writing a book on James Bridges, in April of 2009, I interviewed Lisa Blount by phone. It instantly became one of my favorite interviews. She not only had wonderful stories and insights, but she seemed to remember the making of September 30, 1955 as though it were yesterday. Her enthusiasm was infectious. At several points during our conversation, she quoted a few of her lines from the film almost verbatim. (The screenplay is Bridges's best.)

As is evidenced by her decision to return to her home state of Arkansas to make films, she followed her passions wherever they led her. I will always be grateful that her passion for this wonderful, neglected film led her to speak with me, and I urge everyone to seek it out and watch the brilliant performances it contains.