Michael Clarke Duncan was an American actor best known for his performance in the movie ‘The Green Mile.’ His life story is that of a simple boy from a humble background eventually making it big in the glittery world of Hollywood. He had a modest beginning and initially worked as a digger for a gas station company. He then worked as a security guard for a security firm providing service to various Hollywood actors, before realizing his true calling. At the insistence of his mother, he pursued his dream of becoming an actor. Known for his large physique, he was often cast in movies that displayed action and aggression onscreen. He created a stir when he turned vegetarian and became an ardent supporter of PETA. He appeared in more than 70 films before his untimely demise due to heart complications. Many years after his death, he is still remembered for his imposing stature and acting skills. He is also remembered for his genial personality.
Childhood & Early Life
Michael Clarke Duncan was born on 10 December 1957, in Chicago (Southside area), Illinois. He was raised by his single mother Jean Duncan who worked as a house cleaner. He also had a sister named Judith whom he supported throughout his life.
During his high school years, he wanted to play football. However, his mother did not let him play, fearing that he might get hurt. He then turned towards acting and worked hard to attain his goal of becoming an actor.
He also focused on studies and pursued communications at ‘Alcorn State University,’ but had to drop out in order to support his ailing mother. He played basketball at ‘Kankakee Community College’ and ‘Alcorn State’ for one season.
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Michael Clarke Duncan initially worked as a digger for ‘Peoples Gas Company’ and also as a bouncer for various Southside nightclubs. He moved on to a security role for a touring stage production company. As a result, he traveled to 56 cities.
He settled in Los Angeles in 1995 where he took up work in a security firm. He worked as a body guard for various celebrities like Jamie Foxx, Martin Lawrence, and Will Smith. He continued to pursue his acting dream and landed a few roles in commercials.
His huge frame (6ft 5 inches) earned him a few ‘tough guy’ roles on television series like ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘The Jamie Foxx Show,’ and ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’
As far as his film career is concerned, Duncan initially started with small roles in movies like ‘Bulworth’ (1998), ‘The Players Club’ (1998), and ‘A Night at the Roxbury’ (1998). Later on, he received praise and acclaim for his role as ‘Bear’ in Michael Bay’s action-packed blockbuster ‘Armageddon’ (1998).
His good friend Bruce Willis suggested him for the role of ‘John Coffey’ in Frank Darabont’s ‘The Green Mile’ (1999). Michael’s moving performance as the gentle giant with superhuman healing powers earned him nominations at the ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role’ and ‘Golden Globe Award’ for ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role.’
Michael Clarke Duncan went on to appear in several other films of various genres. These films include ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ (2000), ‘See Spot Run’ (2001), ‘Planet of the Apes’ (2001), ‘The Scorpion King’ (2002), ‘Daredevil’ (2003), ‘The Island’ (2005), and ‘Sin City’ (2005).
He also lent his voice to various animated movies and brought various characters alive with his deep resonating voice. He worked as a voice actor in films like ‘Brother Bear’ (2003), ‘Brother Bear 2’ (2006), ‘Kung Fu Panda’ (2008), and ‘Green Lantern’ (2011).
He also lent his voice to various video games, including ‘Soldier of Fortune,’ ‘God of War II,’ and ‘Saints Row.’
He made guest appearances on popular TV shows like ‘Chuck’ (2008), ‘Bones’ (2011), and two episodes of the popular comedy show ‘Two and a Half Men’ in 2008 and 2009. He was also one of the most frequent guests on ‘The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,’ having appeared on the show 18 times. Following Duncan’s death, Ferguson paid tribute to him by playing his reruns before the start of his show’s next season.
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Michael Clarke Duncan received much acclaim and popularity for his role as ‘Bear’ in the Bruce Willis-starrer ‘Armageddon’ (1998). The film was nominated for four ‘Oscars’ and grossed over $553 million worldwide.
He received worldwide acclaim for his acting skills after his portrayal of ‘John Coffey’ in the Tom Hanks-starrer ‘The Green Mile’ (1999). The film was nominated for four ‘Oscars,’ one ‘Golden Globe,’ and grossed over $290 million.
Awards & Achievements
Michael Clarke Duncan won several awards for his performance in ‘The Green Mile.’ These awards include ‘Broadcast Film Critics Association Award’ for ‘Best Supporting Actor,’ ‘Saturn Award’ for ‘Best Supporting Actor,’ and ‘Black Reel Award’ for ‘Best Supporting Actor.’
He was also nominated under the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ category at the ‘Academy Awards’ for his portrayal of ‘John Coffey’ in ‘The Green Mile.’ He also received nominations for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the ‘Golden Globe Awards’ and ‘Screen Actors Guild Awards’ for the same role.
Personal Life & Legacy
During his later years, Michael Clarke Duncan turned vegetarian (2009) and supported PETA in their campaigns and advertisements. He made a film, talking about his animal-friendly lifestyle and how he threw away $5000 worth of meat. The film created quite a stir.
He suffered a heart attack on July 13, 2012, post which he was treated for two months. He eventually succumbed to respiratory failure on September 3, 2012, at the age of 54 in Los Angeles, California.
He is survived by his mother Jean Duncan, sister Judy, and fiancée Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth. Post his death, the family was embroiled in a property feud. Omarosa was accused of tampering the will and selling Michael’s personal belongings.
Michael Clarke Duncan was a blue belt in Brazilian jujitsu.
He supposedly gave $5 to anyone who recognized him on the street and knew what his full name was.
Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson were his close friends.