Actor Michael Clarke Duncan dies
Michael Clarke Duncan, the tall and massively built actor with the shaved head and deep voice who received an Academy Award nomination for his moving portrayal of a gentle death row inmate in the 1999 prison drama “The Green Mile,” died Monday. He was 54. The Chicago native rose to fame playing a hulking inmate with a special psychic gift opposite Tom Hanks in the 1999 film, adapted from the novel by Stephen King.
Duncan was born on the South Side and was raised, along with his sister, Judy, by his mother, Jean in the Kenwood neighborhood, his sister said. According to the Internet Movie Database, his mother refused to let him play high school football, so he turned to acting. After high school, he played basketball at Kankakee Community College and worked for Peoples Gas before moving to Hollywood. Duncan told the Tribune earlier this year that he is a “huge White Sox fan and Kenny Williams, the general manager of the Sox, is a good friend.” In a statement, Williams said he will miss his friend:
“Michael was a close friend,” Williams said. “He was the nicest, kindest guy anyone could ever know. He was a great fan of the Chicago White Sox and often called me to offer advice. His friendship will be missed.”
Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing roughly 315 pounds, Duncan parlayed his considerable size into a career as a Hollywood security guard, working for the likes of Will Smith and the rapper Notorious B.I.G. His first movie role came in 1998’s “Armageddon” with Bruce Willis; Willis later helped the fledgling actor land the “Green Mile” gig. Of his affinity for the role of the doomed John Coffey, Duncan told The Times in a 2000 interview: “I identified with John Coffey in the fact that we both had troubled times, we are both big, and by looking at us, you would be fearful of your life if you met us in a dark alley.”
Duncan credited acting coach Larry Moss with teaching him “how to dig within myself” for the heavily emotional crying scenes in the movie.
“I’m an emotional person, a very emotional person,” Duncan told the Tribunein 2000. “All those tears you see in the movie were mine.”
He had appeared on television series including “Bones,” “Chuck” and “Two and a Half Men” and lent his voice to such animated movie and TV projects as “Family Guy” and the movie “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.” Clarke had been in a romantic relationship with reality TV star the Rev. Omarosa Manigault, best known for her time on NBC’s competition series “The Apprentice.” The two often frequented red carpet events together, including Perez Hilton’s recent 34th birthday bash and more high-profile movie premieres, like “The Green Hornet.”
He suffered a myocardial infarction July 13 and never fully recovered.
Publicist Joy Fehily released a statement from Manigault, who was engaged to Duncan, saying the 54-year-old actor died Monday morning in a Los Angeles hospital after nearly two months of treatment.