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The Man, The Voice and the Legacy

Cameron Hines

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On Sept. 3, 2012, one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars, Michael Clarke Duncan, passed away at the age of 54. Duncan, who had suffered from cardiac arrest in July, never fully recovered and died in the Los Angeles Hospital he had been in since July 13th of this year.

Hulking at 6 feet, 5 inches, Duncan came to be known more as a gentle giant than as a Hollywood tough guy. When thinking of Michael Clarke Duncan, three things come to mind: a towering figure, a voice deeper than a gorilla playing the tuba, and a smile more contagious than the bubonic plague in 14th century Europe.

Growing up, he constantly talked about being in movies. In his 20s, he worked by day as a ditch digger, and at night put his intimidating stature to use as a bouncer at clubs. During press for the Green Mile, arguably Duncan’s best performance, he says that his friends at his ditch digging job nicknamed him “Hollywood” because of how much he talked about wanting to work as an actor.

In 1990, Duncan sought to make that dream a reality as he moved out to Los Angeles in hopes of finding someone that would hire him. He started off with roles that simply required his massive size and baritone voice. Michael Bay’s Armageddon was his first major role in which he played Bear, an eccentric oil rig driller.

After his work as a tough guy, Duncan would move on to his most infamous role in Green Mile, in which he played John Coffey, a man wrongfully accused of raping and murdering two white girls in Louisiana. In prison, he forms a friendship with Tom Hanks’ character, a prison security guard. The role would ultimately garner Duncan a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars, where he lost to Michael Caine for his role in The Cider House Rules.

In recent years, his more famous roles have been Attar in Planet of the Apes, Manute in Sin City, Lucius Washington in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Kilowog in Green Lantern. In addition, he has done a large amount of voice acting in animated specials, including The Proud Family, Family Guy, Kung Fu Panda, Jimmy Neutron, and Teen Titan. Duncan has also done voice work in video games, including Saints Row and God of War II.

Michael Clarke Duncan was a phenomenal actor, one who will be sorely missed from Hollywood. When hearing about his death, I immediately thought of one of his scenes in Talladega Nights, and so I close with it—

Lucius Washington: “You’re not gonna live forever.”

Ricky Bobby: “No one lives forever, no one. But with advances in modern science and my high level income, it’s not crazy to think I can live to be 245, maybe 300. Heck, I just read in the newspaper that they put a pig heart in some guy from Russia. Do you know what that means?”

Lucius Washington: “No, I don’t know what that means. I guess longer life.”

Ricky Bobby: “No, he didn’t live. It’s just exciting that we’re trying things like that.”

 

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The Man, The Voice and the Legacy