'The Green Mile' Actor Michael Clarke Duncan Passes Away at 54

Michael Clarke Duncan, the breakout star of the 1999 film 'The Green Mile,' passed away this weekend from complications brought on by a heart attack. RIP, Michael.

‘The Green Mile’ Actor Michael Clarke Duncan Passes Away at 54

Michael Clarke Duncan, the breakout star of the 1999 film ‘The Green Mile,’ passed away this weekend from complications brought on by a heart attack. RIP, Michael.

-Lucia Peters

Michael Clarke Duncan

Sad news this morning, Bettys: Michael Clarke Duncan, the Oscar-nominated actor best known for his portrayal of John Coffey in the The Green Mile, passed away yesterday morning in Los Angeles. He was only 54 years old.

Michael was hospitalized on July 13 after suffering a heart attack, remaining in intensive care until August 6. Sadly, he never fully recovered from the episode, and yesterday, his death was confirmed by Dan Spilo, who managed the actor for more than a decade. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Spilo called it “a tragic loss for anyone who knew this wonderful man, for the business as a whole and for the planet.” He went on to add, “He was the only actor I ever knew that more often than not when fans came up to him, of any age or race or gender, they wouldn’t ask for an autograph, they’d want a hug. He had a heart as big as the world.”

A statement issued on behalf of Michael’s fiancée, former The Apprentice contestant the Rev. Omarosa Manigault, said, “Manigault is grateful for all of your prayers and asks for privacy at this time. Celebrations of his life, both private and public, will be announced at a later date.” They planned to marry in January 2013.

Born in Chicago in 1957, Michael grew up in a single-parent household; he had always wanted to act, but he dropped out of school to support his family when his mother became ill. His unusual size—6 feet, 5 inches and 300 pounds—helped him land construction jobs and later security gigs. After being cast as Bear in the 1998 film Armageddon, Michael became friends with Bruce Willis, who then helped him land his breakout role: John Coffey in Frank Darabont’s 1999 adaptation of the Stephen King prison drama The Green Mile. He worked steadily over the next decade and a half in such diverse films as Sin City, Talladega Nights, and Kung Fu Panda; his loss will be deeply felt by the Hollywood community—and by anyone who just loves movies.

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Stephen King has always been my airport read of choice, but The Green Mile—one of my favorite books—is something more than the usual schlockfest. It some ways, it’s closer to, say, the novellas The Body (which became the 1986 Rob Reiner film Stand By Me) and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (which became, unsurprisingly, Frank Darabont’s other Stephen King prison movie, The Shawshank Redemption). Like many King tales, it’s about good and evil—but this time, the evil isn’t the devil, or a demon, or a dark wizard, or what have you. It’s people. And the good? That’s people, too. In particular, it’s one man: John Coffey, like the drink but not spelt the same, and the extraordinary light he brings to the world. Michael Clarke Duncan embodied it better than I thought it would be possible for any actor to do.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scenes from The Green Mile—the one in which John, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit, finally gets to see a movie for the first time himself.

Rest well, Michael. We’ll miss you.

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.

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