Some sad news today as the long weekend winds down to a close — Oscar nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan has passed away at the age of 54.
Know for his imposing physique, it perhaps should come as no surprise that Duncan began his career as a bodyguard to actors and hip hop stars, a vocation he stepped away from after the death of Notorious B.I.G. But given his size and distinctive voice, it wasn’t long before the movies came calling, and after a few bit parts, he landed his first substantial role in Michael Bay‘s “Armageddon.” It was there he struck up a friendship with Bruce Willis, appearing in “Breakfast Of Champions” with the actor, who also recommended him for “The Green Mile.”
And it’s with this film that Duncan truly proved himself as actor whose skills ran deep. Playing a man on death row convicted of murdering and raping two young girls, who also has a special, seemingly supernatural gift, he was nominated for a number of honors including an Academy Award and Golden Globe. “I have started to suspect that when we talk about ‘good acting’ in the movies, we are really discussing two other things: good casting and the creation of characters we react to strongly. Much of a performance is created in the filmmaking itself, in photography and editing and the emotional cues of music. But an actor must have the technical and emotional mastery to embody a character and evoke him persuasively, and the film must give him a character worth portraying,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review of “The Green Mile.” “….the goodness of Coffey…is embodied by Duncan in a performance that is both acting and being.”
And “acting and being” very much seemed to define Duncan on the big screen where his work ranged in everything from genre fare like “Daredevil,” “Sin City” and “Green Lantern” to more dramas like “Slipstream” and “Redemption Road” to comedies like “The Slammin’ Salmon” and “The Whole Nine Yards” to blockbuster fare in “The Planet Of The Apes” and “The Scorpion King.” Duncan also had a healthy career as a voice actor, lending his unique pipes to various animated films and video games.
Clarke suffered a cardiac arrest in July and didn’t seem to fully recover, leading to his death. Few people in Hollywood seemed as genuine or just plain down to Earth as Michael Clarke Duncan, and he will be missed. [Washington Post]
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