I’m heartbroken. Michael Clarke Duncan, the actor who made The Green Mile a great movie, in my opinion, has passed away of a heart attack at a very young age. The man never really got a chance to show his full range in the kinds of roles that got attention, although if you watch his movies and TV appearances (including comic turns on shows like Two and a Half Men and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody), you can see that he was capable of playing a wide variety of characters.
At 6’5″ and more than 300 pounds, I’m sure his physical size was an occasional casting impediment for him, but he worked a lot.
His turn as John Coffey in The Green Mile is his most celebrated role, and well it should be. Even in that work, I think he was largely underrated. He was so good, in fact, that many people never stopped to think how difficult it is for a grown man to play that level of innocence. Not many actors could have pulled that off. It required a lot of him, and it’s an astonishing, heartbreaking performance that has left an indelible mark on audiences. His Oscar nomination was well-deserved.
In the clip below, he pays tribute to his Green Mile costar, Tom Hanks.
Michael’s IMDB page says that he was raised by a single mother in Chicago, and he dug ditches for a while in order to help his mother financially. He worked as a male stripper called “Black Caesar” and later became a bodyguard for the likes of Will Smith. He also purportedly gave $5 to people who recognized him on the street if they knew his full name. Sounds like he had a big heart. It just gave out on him much too soon.
Our sincere condolences go out to his fiance and his family. Michael will not be forgotten. (Spoiler alert: If you’ve never seen The Green Mile, you might not want to watch the clip below.)