Obituary: Michael Clarke Duncan
Obituary by Jack Foley
OSCAR-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan has died at the age of 54. He had suffered a heart attack.
Dan Spilo, the actor’s manager at Industry Entertainment, confirmed the news saying that his passing was a “ terrible loss” to anyone who knew “this wonderful man, for the business as a whole and for the planet”.
Duncan was admitted to hospital on July 13, 2012, for a myocardial infarction, which Mr Spilo said he never fully recovered from. He passed away on Monday, September 3, 2012.
Duncan’s fiance, Omarosa Manigaul, was with him shortly before his death.
Duncan was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Green Mile, in which he played a gentle giant Death Row inmate alongside Tom Hanks.
But he was widely known for a string of performances in a number of other popular films, including Armageddon, The Green Lantern and Kung Fu Panda.
Born in Chicago on December 10, 1957, Duncan was raised by a single mother after his father left.
He developed an early desire to become an actor after his mother resisted his early attempts at playing football. But when she became ill, he dropped out of Alcorn State University and worked as a ditch digger and bouncer to support her, making the most of his imposing physical frame (6ft 5ins and 315 pounds).
In his mid-20s he moved to Los Angeles to look for acting parts but became a bodyguard for Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and the rapper Notorious B.I.G., whose subsequent killing compelled him to quit his job and pursue acting full-time.
His breakthrough role came in 1998, when Duncan was cast as Bear in Michael Bay’s Armageddon alongside Bruce Willis, with whom he subsequently became close friends.
It was Willis’ influence that helped him to get his next big role as John Coffey in the Frank Darabont-directed The Green Mile, a role that also attracted a Golden Globe nominatio.
Duncan also worked with Willis again on several occasions in Breakfast of Champions, The Whole Nine Yards and Sin City.
And he underlined his versatility by appearing in a wide range of films, taking on the superhero genre with a key role in Daredevil, comedy alongside Will Ferrell in Talledega Nights and lending his distinct, baritone voice to animated hits Kung Fu Panda and Brother Bear.
On TV, he also appeared in top-rated shows such as The Apprentice and Two And A Half Men and most recently co-starred with Geoff Stults in Fox’s The Finder, a spin-off of Bones.
News of his death prompted an outpouring of tributes from friends and colleagues on Twitter, all of whom shared their condolences and memories of the actor.
Among them was actress Jaime Bergman, wife of Bones star David Boreanaz, who said: “R.I.P. Michael Clarke Duncan. Your shining smile will never be forgotten.”
Olivia Munn Tweeted: “Michael Clarke Duncan always had a smile on his face & a big bear hug ready for you. My thoughts & prayers are with his family&friends. RIP.”
And Terry Crews said: “Rest in Peace to my brother who paved the way for me and many Black actors, Michael Clarke Duncan. Honored to have known him and called him a friend to me and my family.”
Avengers star Clark Gregg said: “Really sad news. Played basketball with him. Sweetest man ever.”
And Michael Ealy said: “RIP Michael Clarke Duncan. Miss u already brother!”
Singer and rapper MC Hammer wrote: “One of the best among Men on earth. A gentle Giant. Loved him. Pure class and grace. RIP my friend.”
Duncan’s distraught manager Spilo added in his statement: “He was the only actor I ever knew that more often than not when fans came up to him, of any age or race or gender, they wouldn’t ask for an autograph, they’d want a hug. He had a heart as big as the world.”