Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Remembering Michael Clarke Duncan December 10, 1957 - September 3, 2012

If you saw the movie “The Green Mile” you will never soon forget the performance of Michael Clarke Duncan as “John Coffey.”  He was not only a huge man but his performance was that as well.

Duncan grew up in the south side of Chicago, Illinois, and raised by his mother.  His mom named him Michael Clarke because she felt he was destined for greatness and that Michael Clarke had a star like ring to it.

As a child, his mom taught Michael how to be a leader.  She gave him a clean white handkerchief and told her son to “Stick this in the back of your right jean pocket, let it hang out, and don’t say anything to anyone about it.  Watch what happens.”  He came back to his mom and reported that his friends in the neighborhood began to wear white handkerchiefs in their back pockets.  Her reply was “That’s how you know you’re a leader.”  This was a lesson he claimed he never forgot.

He graduated from King High School.  He played both football and basketball at Kankakee Community College and then Alcorn State University in Mississippi.  He left college early to return to Chicago to help support his family.  He had many early jobs including digging ditches, a personal trainer, and working as a bouncer and often talked about his dream of becoming a Hollywood actor.  His friends called him “Hollywood Mike.”  He would soon pursue his dream and took a job as a bodyguard for playwright Shelly Garrett. 
The Green Mile

He received his first acting break having earned a small part in the film “Armageddon” having played a member of the drilling team.  It was actor, Bruce Willis who initiated the call to give Michael a chance at the part of John Coffey in The Green Mile. He received numerous accolades for that performance including a nomination of for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and and numerous other nominations.  He also was recognized as the "ShoWest Male Star of Tomorrow".

He was not only considered to be a great actor but a terrific human being.  He is remembered as an extremely gentle and loving man whose voice and compassion was felt by all who knew him. 

Duncan continued to appear in films including “The Whole Nine Yards” “Planet of the Apes” “The Scorpion King” and “Talladega Nights” to name a few.  His final appearances were as “Leo Knox” in The Finder and Robert Townsend’s The Hive.

His deep voice was used in films as well including Kung Fu Panda, Racing Stripes, and Delgo and Dinotopia: Curse of the Ruby Sunstone.

On Michael Clarke Duncan’s personal side, he was a huge animal lover (companion to six cats, two dogs and three fish) and a big supporter of PETA.  He also took pride in his health.  He was a vegetarian and was trained in Brazilian jujitsu having earned a purple belt.  He was also professional sports fan and narrated the Major League Baseball film on the 2005 World Series.  He loved his family and was called “Uncle Moose” by his nieces and nephews.

Michael Clarke Duncan died on September 3, 2013 following a heart attack at the age of 54.

His funeral program at Forest Lawn
A Celebration of Life and Legacy was held on Monday, September 10, 2012 in the Hall of Liberty at Forest Lawn Memorial Park & Mortuary in Los Angeles (funeral program pictured).  Among those who paid tribute to Michael were Tom Hanks, Stevie Wonder, and Jay Leno.  The service lasted nearly four hours.  A letter was read by Stephen King who said of him "no actor has ever done a character I wrote more justice."  Jay Leno spoke with his voice cracking "Just to see such a pure heart and pure kindness, and to see it taken so early, there are no sadder words than what might have been."  Finally, Tom Hanks impersonated the 6 ft. 5 inch, 300 lb., deep voiced Duncan sheepishly explaining to his fellow gang members that his mom wouldn't let him be in a gang.  If is wasn't for that mama and the frying pan with a pork chop, we would not be here today celebrating the life of such a great man."
Resting Place at Forest Lawn

Michael Clarke Duncan was then laid to rest in the mausoleum at Forest Lawn.

Remembering "The Gentle Giant."

No comments:

Post a Comment