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Remembering Michael Clarke Duncan —Inside the Life & Death of 'the Green Mile' Actor

Bettina Dizon
Aug 03, 2020
05:30 P.M.

Michael Clarke's dream of becoming an actor turned into reality after he took a leap of faith and went to Hollywood. Here’s a look at his life and career.

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Michael Clarke Duncan is remembered for his deep voice that came with his huge size. He had notable films throughout his career including “The Green Mile” which earned him an Oscar nomination.

Sadly, he passed away at the age of 54 due to respiratory failure. His legacy remains in the films he has made and the relationships he has formed. Here’s a look back at the life he lived.

Michael Clarke Duncan attends the premiere of Relativity Media's 'Act of Valor' at ArcLight Cinemas on February 13, 2012 in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Michael Clarke Duncan attends the premiere of Relativity Media's 'Act of Valor' at ArcLight Cinemas on February 13, 2012 in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

EARLY LIFE

Duncan was born to a house cleaner, Jean, who raised him single-handedly since his birth on December 10, 1957. Born and raised in Chicago, the actor refrained from walking towards a life filled with drugs and alcohol.

He initially dreamed of becoming a football athlete but decided that he wanted to become an actor after his mom refused to let him play in fear of getting injured.

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Duncan graduated from a local community college and worked at People’s Gas Company before moving to Hollywood to work as a bodyguard.

Michael Clarke Duncan attends the 76Ers-Lakers game In Los Angeles, California on March 31, 2000. | Source: Getty Images

Michael Clarke Duncan attends the 76Ers-Lakers game In Los Angeles, California on March 31, 2000. | Source: Getty Images

DUNCAN’S CAREER

The opportunity to play a part in a film came at an unexpected time for Duncan. “We found him at the gym,” director Michael Bay said.

Willis' other films include “Die Hard” where he played John McClane and “The Sixth Sense” where he took on the role of Malcolm Crowe.

The director, who gave Duncan his first significant role in “Armageddon,” recalled the actor crying during his audition because of happiness. “He just wanted to make his mom proud,” Bay added.

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Michael Clarke Duncan appears on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno at NBC Studios on February 20, 2012 in Burbank, California. | Source: Getty Images

Michael Clarke Duncan appears on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno at NBC Studios on February 20, 2012 in Burbank, California. | Source: Getty Images

Bruce Willis, who starred on “Armageddon” grew fond of Duncan and recommended him to director Frank Darabont, giving him a starring role in “The Green Mile.”

His most recent works before his death were “Redemption Road,” “The Finder,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “Spider-Man,” and “Planet of the Apes.”

Michael Clarke Duncan attends the 12th Annual DesignCare Event at Ron Burkle's Green Acres Estate on July 24, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images

Michael Clarke Duncan attends the 12th Annual DesignCare Event at Ron Burkle's Green Acres Estate on July 24, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images

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BRUCE WILLIS’ CAREER

By the time Duncan and Willis met, the latter already made a name in Hollywood. Willis' other films include “Die Hard,” where he played John McClane and “The Sixth Sense” where he took on the role of Malcolm Crowe.

Willis also starred in other movies including “Unbreakable,” “Sin City,” “Glass,” “McClane,” “The Long Night,” and “Trauma Center.”

(L To R) Steve Buscemi, Will Patton, Bruce Willis, Michael Duncan, Ben Affleck, And Owen Wilson Star In "Armageddon." | Source: Getty Images

(L To R) Steve Buscemi, Will Patton, Bruce Willis, Michael Duncan, Ben Affleck, And Owen Wilson Star In "Armageddon." | Source: Getty Images

The Hollywood star is known for his many action films playing hard-edged characters that have grossed over $2.5 billion combined.

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