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Rick Dial was a character actor, musician, and businessman from Malvern (Hot Spring County). Dial acted in fourteen Hollywood films, first appearing alongside childhood friend and fellow actor Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade (1996). In addition to his acting, Dial was part-owner of a furniture store in Malvern and was “the Voice of the Malvern Leopards,” announcing high school football games.
Richard Halley Dial was born on March 9, 1955, in Malvern to Bill J. Dial and DeNora VanDusen Dial; he was one of three children. He graduated from Malvern High School in 1973, where he earned All-Conference honors on the Malvern Leopards football team.
Dial married Phyllis Voss on September 22, 1973; they had three children.
After high school, Dial went to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia (Clark County), where he earned a BS in education and social sciences. In 1977, Dial became the announcer for local football games when Allen Pulley stepped down.
In 1996, Dial was cast as machine shop owner Bill Cox in Billy Bob Thornton’s film Sling Blade. He landed the role due to his friendship with Thornton, who wrote the part specifically for him. In 1997, Dial played Elmo in Robert Duvall’s The Apostle, appearing with fellow Arkansas actors Stuart Greer and Thornton. On December 6, 1998, an article about Dial appeared in the Los Angeles Times. At the time, Dial was part-owner of Orr’s Furniture in Malvern; Dial and two partners had bought out Orr’s previous owner. He had previously worked there as a manager, and he continued to operate the furniture store while he acted; in fact, some films arranged their shooting schedules around Dial’s furniture sales, as he would not take off during busy times.
In 1999, Dial appeared in The General’s Daughter as a forensics expert, with John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell, Timothy Hutton, and James Woods. Director Simon West revealed on the film’s commentary that he chose Dial after spotting him in both Sling Blade and The Apostle. Also in 1999, Dial appeared as a correctional officer in Mumford, then again with Thornton in The Badge (2002) as Doc, before reuniting with Robert Duvall as a feed store owner in Secondhand Lions (2003), also starring Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment.
In 2006, Dial appeared as Mike in Come Early Morning with Ashley Judd and as Dr. Barnard in Beyond the Wall of Sleep. In 2007, Dial played the sheriff in Tim Jackson’s short film Where’s My Close-Up, Mr. Thornton? In 2009, Dial played Wesley Barnes alongside Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart. He was also credited as a performer on the film’s soundtrack. In 2011, Dial appeared as Dirty John in The Last Ride and as Don Leggett in Richard Linklater’s Bernie with Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey.
Dial was a member of Malvern’s First Baptist Church, the Malvern Booster Club, the Athletic Foundation, and Jaycees Club. He also served as president of the local Lions Club. He was a recipient of the Kristi Parker Norris Community Service Award from the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce and the Sam Walton Leadership Award.
Dial died on May 27, 2011, of a heart attack. He is buried at Malvern’s Resthaven Cemetery. Honorary pallbearers at the funeral were the Malvern High School Class of 1973, the 1972 Malvern Leopard football team, and the Press Box crew at Claude Mann Stadium at Malvern High School.
Dial appeared posthumously in two films. He had an uncredited role as Bucky in Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012); the film was dedicated to Dial’s memory. Bryan Coley cast Dial as Pastor Shelby in Crackerjack, which was released in 2013.
For additional information:
Keesee, Steve. “Malvern Actor Rick Dial Dies at 56.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 28, 2011. Online at http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2011/may/28/malvern-actor-dial-dies-56/ (accessed June 13, 2018).
“Rick Dial.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0224496/ (accessed June 13, 2018).
Welkos, Robert W. “A Regular Guy’s Slingshot to the Screen.” Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1998. Online at http://articles.latimes.com/1998/dec/06/entertainment/ca-50960 (accessed June 13, 2018).
Cody Lynn Berry
Last Updated 6/13/2018
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