You may recognize Michael from his remarkable role as John Coffey in “The Green Mile” (1999) in which the 6 foot, 5 inch, 300 pound Michael played a huge, gentle black man with mysterious and profound healing powers.
As a death row inmate in a Louisiana prison in the 1930’s, he uses his healing powers to save others from grave illness or severe injury under the watchful eye of a prison guard played by Tom Hanks. Michael was so good in that role; he was nominated for an Academy Award.
But you may also recognize Michael from many other movies and television shows, for after “The Green Mile,” he became a very busy and successful actor.
Born on Chicago’ s South Side on Dec. 10, 1957, Michael Clarke Duncan at the age of 6 had to grow up in a hurry because his father left the family, leaving his mother Jean and his older sister Judy, to fend for themselves and to raise Michael.
Like many a lonely child, Michael dreamed of someday becoming an actor, immersed in his roles and loved by his audiences. But after attending Kankakee Community College and Alcorn State University, Michael returned to Chicago to help support the family.
For years, he was a ditch digger for Peoples Gas Company, and he spoke so often of moving to Hollywood to become an actor, his fellow employees laughingly called him “Hollywood.”
But in his late 30’s, he did exactly that. He moved to Los Angeles and studied acting, in addition to doing security work for Hollywood entertainers, eventually working security for actors such as Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx.
From those contacts, he began to get tiny movie parts, including a small role in “Armageddon,” (1998) a Hollywood blockbuster. One of the film’s stars was Bruce Willis and the two hit it off so well, that when casting for “The Green Mile” took place he recommended Michael for the part of John Coffey, a part Michael was determined to play.
In addition to all of his acting work, Michael did public service announcements, including for the animal rights organization PETA. For PETA, he exuberantly extolled the virtues of becoming a vegetarian which he had become in the latter years of his life
But on July 13th, 2012 Michael had a heart attack and on September 3rd, died from complications from that heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 54 years of age.
Michael is survived by his mother and his sister and by his fiancé, actress and Rev. Omarosa Manigault. But he is also survived by the many movies and TV roles he played which audiences will enjoy far into the future, roles that made Michael’s unbelievable dream come true.