Michael Clarke Duncan, a Hollywood actor whose imposing size and distinctive voice made him a dominating screen presence, died this morning at age 54. Here’s what you should know about him.
1. He Died Suddenly
According to TMZ, Michael Clarke Duncan’s fiancee stepped away from his hospital bed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and returned to find him dead.
2. He Recently Had a Heart Attack
As we reported two months ago, Clarke Duncan suffered a heart attack on July 13. He has been in poor health since.
3. He Went Veggie
Clarke Duncan famously became a vegetarian in 2009. He even cancelled his Omaha Steaks subscription and gave away $5,000 in meat from his refrigerator. He first made the change for health reasons but later became a spokesman for PETA.
Clarke Duncan was known for such roles as John Coffey in The Green Mile, the mobster Manute in Sin City, Lucius Washington in Talladega Nights, Bear in Armageddon, Franklin “Frankie Figs” Figueroa in The Whole Nine Yards, and Eli in Breakfast of Champions. He was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for The Green Mile. See his filmography HERE.
5. His Fiancee Was on The Apprentice
Clarke Duncan’s fiancee was Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, who twice participated on The Apprentice with Donald Trump. Her feisty demeanor led E! to dub her Reality TV’s No. 1 bad girl. The former employee of Vice President Al Gore appeared on additional reality shows including Fear Factor and Girls Behaving Badly and was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now a trained preacher, it was she who reportedly discovered Clarke Duncan struggling after his heart attack in July and performed CPR to save his life.
6. He Had Humble Beginnings in Chicago
He was raised by a single mom on the south side of Chicago and worked digging ditches for a gas company. He dropped out of Alcorn State University in Mississippi to support his family and his ill mother. Before moving to L.A., Clarke Duncan’s occupations included bouncer — a natural fit for a large, muscular man — and stripper, likewise. His dancing name was “Black Caesar.” He also tried out for the Chicago Bears in the mid ’80s.
7. He Was Supposed to be Protecting Biggie the Night He Got Shot
After moving to L.A., Clarke Duncan worked as a bodyguard for big-name clients and was scheduled to be on duty for Notorious B.I.G. on the night the rap legend was murdered. The tragedy apparently prompted him to quit bodyguard work. He previously protected the likes of Martin Lawrence, Will Smith and Jamie Foxx. In addition to his imposing size — 6-foot-5, 315 pounds — Clarke Duncan was a blue belt in JuJutsu.
8. Bruce Willis Helped Him Get His Big Break
Clarke Duncan worked his way into Hollywood with several small roles. His breakout performance came in Green Mile, vaulting him to character-actor stardom and Hollywood success thereafter. But he wouldn’t have landed that role without the recommendation of Bruce Willis, who was impressed by Clarke Duncan’s work on Armageddon. Willis and Clarke Duncan also performed together in Breakfast of Champions, The Whole Nine Yards and Sin City.
9. He Had a Golden Voice
Clarke Duncan’s voice was so special that he performed several roles with his voice alone and also was in demand for voiceovers. He performed voice roles in Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2 and The Land Before Time XI: Invasion of the Tinysauruses. He voiced-over Quiznos commercials and was heard on several video games including Soldier of Fortune and God of War II.
10. He Was an Occasional TV Star
Clarke Duncan guest-starred on shows including CSI: NY and Two and a Half Men, and he was a guest on Craig Ferguson’s late-night show.