Say what you will about the modern electronic gossip rag that is TMZ, but you can’t deny its ability to scoop major media outlets when it comes to Hollywood’s more personal tragedies. To wit: The passing of Green Mile star Michael Clarke Duncan.
According to our sources, his passing came very suddenly. We’re told his fiancee, Omarosa Manigault, was with him in his hospital room in Los Angeles and left for a short period of time. When she returned … he had died.
Our sources say Omarosa’s mother was with him when he passed.
Duncan’s rep tells TMZ the actor never fully recovered from the myocardial infarction he suffered on July 13. As TMZ first reported, Omarosa found Duncan in cardiac arrest [following the infarction] and performed CPR and was able to resuscitate him before calling 911.
Though we’re automatically skeptical of anything reported solely by TMZ, the story has been corroborated by Deadline Hollywood, so, sadly, we’re inclined to believe this report.
Though Duncan was never really seen as a leading man, you’d be hard-pressed to find any regular movie watchers who wouldn’t recognize the man from any number of iconic roles he’s had over the years. Given his massive stature, it’s no surprise that Duncan played the role of the menacing heavy in a number of films, though he was equally skilled at playing the gentle giant, and ringing real pathos out of his characters. Take The Green Mile for instance. This 1999 film starred America’s favorite actor Tom Hanks, and yet the real stand out performance of the whole thing, was Duncan’s turn as the incarcerated John Coffey, a convict whose massive wellspring of empathy manifests itself as actual, supernatural healing abilities. Most impressively, despite the fantastical plot, Duncan’s portrayal keeps the film firmly grounded in the dramatic, and the end result is a movie that’s arguably superior to the Stephen King story it used as source material.
Unsurprisingly, Duncan was nominated for an Oscar for The Green Mile.
The most depressing part of Duncan’s passing is that the actor was only 54 years old. Statistically speaking, it’s not all that terribly surprising to see an African American male struck down by heart problems at that relatively young age, but we’re still greatly saddened by the loss. We didn’t realize just how many quality films and video game series the man was involved with until just now, and with his passing we’re finding ourselves unable to think of another actor who might possibly match Duncan’s skillful acting while also possessing the man’s physically imposing stature. Plenty of actors are big guys, and plenty can act, but it’s so uncommon to find one who matches both of these criteria. It may be hyperbolic to claim that Duncan was “one of a kind,” but he was certainly rare, and the movie business will sorely miss his presence.
Update: This post originally stated that Michael Clarke Duncan was featured in the film Pulp Fiction, when it was actually Ving Rhames in that role. We apologize for any confusion and have since amended the error.