The miraculous mountain of muscle in the Oscar-nominated film “The Green Mile,” died Monday in Los Angeles after a massive heart attack in July.
The hulking 6-foot-5, 325-pound movie star passed away early in the day at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at age 54, his rep confirmed to the Daily News.
His gravelly baritone was well-suited to everything from animated films to action spectacles, but no matter the role, a warmth and a sweetness was always evident underneath.
The prolific character actor, whose dozens of movies included an Oscar-nominated performance as a death row inmate in “The Green Mile” and box office hits including “Armageddon,” ‘’Planet of the Apes” and “Kung Fu Panda,” died Monday at age 54. And although he only turned to acting in his 30s, it’s clear from the outpouring of prayers and remembrances he received across the Hollywood and sports worlds that his gentle-giant persona made him much-loved during that relatively brief time.
“I will miss my friend, Michael Clarke Duncan,” comedian and talk-show host Steve Harvey said on Twitter. “What an incredible soldier in God’s Plan.” Other sad and shocked reactions came from a diverse field that included Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, actresses Alexa Vega, Niecy Nash and Olivia Munn, and former boxing champion Lennox Lewis.
In the spring of 2012, Duncan had appeared in a video for PETA, the animal rights organization, in which he spoke of how much better he felt since becoming a vegetarian three years earlier.
“I cleared out my refrigerator, about $5,000 worth of meat,” he said. “I’m a lot healthier than I was when I was eating meat.”
Born in Chicago in 1957, Duncan was raised by a single mother whose resistance to his playing football led to his deciding he wanted to become an actor. But when his mother became ill, he dropped out of college, Alcorn State University, and worked as a ditch digger and bouncer to support her. By his mid-20s, he was in Los Angeles, where he looked for acting parts and became a bodyguard for Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and other stars. The murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G., for whom Duncan had been hired to protect before switching assignments, led him to quit his job and pursue acting full-time.