Duncan, Michael Clarke 1957–
Michael Clarke Duncan 1957–
Noted most of all for his physical stature—he stands six feet, five inches tall and weighs 315 pounds—Michael Clarke Duncan burst into the American national consciousness with his portrayal of a death row inmate with miraculous powers in the 1999 film The Green Mile. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in that film, and it seemed certain to jump-start his film career. As noteworthy as his impressive physical presence, though, was the personal odyssey that led him to the top of his profession.
Duncan was born in Chicago on December 10, 1957. He and his sister, Judith, were raised on the city’s south side by their single mother Jean, who despite the family’s modest circumstances had ambitions for her children. She steered her son away from the drugs and alcohol that were beginning to gain a foothold on Chicago’s South Side, and encouraged him to concentrate on academics. Duncan’s size made him a natural for his high school’s football team. His mother, however, feared the injuries that come from playing football, and urged him to pursue other extracurricular activities. Dreams of fame on the silver screen led Duncan into acting.
Duncan attended historically black Alcorn State University in Mississippi for a time, but his mother’s serious illness led him to return to Chicago to help support the family. He attended Kankakee Community College in Illinois and played basketball there. The family’s financial difficulties forced Duncan to take a job that was inconsistent with both his educational and acting goals. For several years, he worked as a gas-company ditch digger.
Duncan’s journey back into the world of acting was a roundabout one. Finding it easy to pick up side work as a bouncer thanks to his commanding physical appearance, Duncan began working in nightclubs. In one nightclub, he met a theatrical producer who happened to be looking for a security guard for his traveling company. Duncan quit his gas-company job, signed on, and found that being in the theater world reignited his passion for acting. In 1995, he relocated to Los Angeles.
Success did not happen instantly, as Duncan lived the life of a struggling actor and went to audition after
At a Glance…
Born December 10, 1957, in Chicago, IL; raised by single mother, Jean; one sister (Judith). Education: attended Alcorn (Mississippi) State University and Kankakee (Illinois) Community College.
Career: Actor; worked as ditch digger and nightclub bouncer after college years; landedjob as security guard for traveling theater troupe; moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting career, 1995; worked as bodyguard for actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence; began to land smallparts as guards and bouncers, 1997; broke through with starring role in Armageddon, 1998; recommended by costar Bruce Willis for starring role opposite Tom Hanks in TheGreen Mile, 1999; costarred with Willis and Matthew Perry in The Whole NineYards, 2000.
Awards: Best Supporting Actor, Golden Globe Awards; Best Supporting Actor, ScreenActors Guild awards; Best Supporting Actor, Broadcast Film Critics Association; NAACP ImageAward; Male Star of Tomorrow award, ShoWest exhibitors’ meeting (all for TheGreen Mile, 1999-2000).
Addresses: Business —Delores Robinson Entertainment, 112 S. AlmontDr., Los Angeles, CA 90048.
fruitless audition. Facing bankruptcy, he went back into security work, and served as a bodyguard for actors such as Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. One night, while sitting in his roach-infested motel room, Duncan began to reexamine his priorities. As he related to People magazine, he told himself, “You have no life, no money, and you’re talking to bugs on a wall. Something is wrong here.” Duncan considered giving up acting, and tried to parlay his security experience into a job with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Ironically, things began to improve for Duncan when he landed bit parts as a bouncer. In the films Back in Business (1997), The Players Club (1998), and Bul-worth (1998), he appeared as a bouncer or guard. In addition, television and commercial work began to flow his way. However, Duncan’s big break occurred in 1998 when he earned a role in the hit film Armageddon. In the film, he played an oilfield worker who was part of a crew sent to deflect an asteroid that threatened to wipe out the Earth. While working on Armageddon, Duncan developed a friendship with co-star Bruce Willis, one of Hollywood’s top actors. “A lot of people told me that when Bruce Willis gets in character you can’t look at him,” Duncan told People. “But we became friends right off the bat.”
Duncan tried to cheer up Willis after the latter’s breakup with actress Demi Moore. Willis returned the favor by recommending Duncan to director Frank Darabont, who was in the midst of screening a cast for his new film, The Green Mile. “There are not a lot of roles for big, black, bald-headed men,” Duncan was quoted as saying in Entertainment Weekly. However, the Green Mile role seemed custom made for him, and he landed the part. Duncan poured his heart and soul into the role. “I’m an emotional person,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “All those tears you see in the movie were mine.”
In the film, which was adapted from a story by Stephen King, Duncan played a 1930s Death Row inmate named John Coffey, who is imprisoned for the murder of two young girls. With his peaceful, spiritual demeanor, Coffey seems incapable of having committed the murders. Coffey also possesses miraculous healing powers that lead to a friendship with prison guard Paul Edgecomb (played by Tom Hanks), who begins to question Coffey’s guilt. As Duncan explained to Jet, “John Coffey is one of the biggest men that anybody has ever seen. He’s 7 feet tall and 330 pounds—an apparent cold-blooded murderer with two dead girls in his arms. But John Coffey is also a very special individual who understands Paul, sees the kindness that is in Paul and most of the other guards. And that’s kind of the ironic twist to it.”
Duncan earned extremely positive reviews for his performance in The Green Mile, for which he garnered a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination in 2000. Jet praised his “powerful, heartfelt performance,” and Entertainment Weekly opined that “Duncan imbues a potentially stereotypical character—the saintly African American—with a tangible human soul.” Duncan also was named Male Star of Tomorrow at the ShoWest exhibitors’ convention in Las Vegas, and earned a best supporting actor award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and an NAACP Image Award nomination. Although Duncan was eventually edged out for the Oscar, his career seemed ready to advance to a new level.
In the year 2000, Duncan reunited with Bruce Willis in the comedy The Whole Nine Yards. This film, in the words of allmovie.com writer Rebecca Flint, “cast him [Duncan] as a brutish thug who terrorizes mild-mannered dentist Matthew Perry”. Duncan is single and lives alone in Los Angeles. “Right now,” he told People, “it’s just me and the business—and she’s being pretty good to me.”
Entertainment Weekly, March 1, 2000, p. 71; June 16, 2000, p. 67.
Jet, December 20, 1999, p. 58. New York Times, March 19, 2000, p. AR13.
People, August 17, 1998, p. 110; January 1, 2000, p.103.
Variety, February 7, 2000, p. 18.
—James M. Manheim
Duncan, Michael Clarke 1957–
DUNCAN, Michael Clarke 1957–
(Michael Duncan Clarke, Michael Duncan, Michael "Big Mike " Duncan, Michael C. Duncan)
Born December 10, 1957, in Chicago, IL; son of Jean Duncan (a house cleaner). Education: Attended Kankakee Community College; studied communications at Alcorn State University. Avocational Interests: Professional wrestling.
Addresses: Agent—United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Manager—Evolution Entertainment, 901 North Highland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038. Publicist—Baker/Winokur/Ryder, 9100 Wilshire Blvd., Sixth Floor, West Tower, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Actor. Appeared in television commercials. Previously worked as a bodyguard in Hollywood, a theatre troupe security guard, a bouncer, and a ditch digger at Peoples Gas Company, Chicago, IL.
Awards, Honors: Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, best supporting actor, Saturn Award, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, best supporting actor, Black Reel Award, theatrical—best supporting actor, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role, Academy Award nomination, best actor in a supporting role, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nominations, best supporting actor and most promising actor, Image Award nomination, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), outstanding actor in a motion picture, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best supporting actor, Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, favorite supporting actor—drama, MTV Movie Award nomination, breakthrough male performance, and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by a cast in a theatrical motion picture, all 2000, for The Green Mile; ShoWest Award, National Association of Theatre Owners, male star of tomorrow, 2000; Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, favorite supporting actor—comedy/romance, 2001, for The Whole Nine Yards.
Craps player, Friday, New Line Cinema, 1995.
Huge guard, Back in Business (also known as Heart of Stone), Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 1997.
B. B., Caught Up, Live Film & Mediaworks, 1998.
Bodyguard, The Players Club, New Line Cinema, 1998.
Bouncer, Bulworth, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1998.
Jayotis "Bear" Kurleenbear, Armageddon, Buena Vista, 1998.
(As Michael "Big Mike" Duncan) Roxbury bouncer, A Night at the Roxbury, Paramount, 1998.
(As Michael Duncan) Eli, Breakfast of Champions, Buena Vista, 1999.
Gay virgin, The Underground Comedy Movie, Phaedra Cinema, 1999.
John Coffey, The Green Mile (also known as Stephen King's The Green Mile), Warner Bros., 1999.
Franklin "Frankie Figs" Figueroa, The Whole Nine Yards (also known as Le nouveau voisin), Warner Bros., 2000.
Himself, Wrestlemania 2000 (also known as Wrestlemania XVI and WWF Wrestlemania XVI), 2000.
Colonel Attar, Planet of the Apes, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2001.
Himself, Hollywood Digital Diaries, 2001.
Murdoch, See Spot Run, Warner Bros., 2001.
Voice of Sam, Cats & Dogs, Warner Bros., 2001.
Balthazar, The Scorpion King, Universal, 2002.
Voice of Mean Lion, George of the Jungle 2, Buena Vista, 2003.
Voice of Tug, Brother Bear (animated; also known as Tierra de osos), Buena Vista, 2003.
Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin, Daredevil (also known as Daredevil 1.5), Twentieth Century–Fox, 2003.
Franklin, Pursued, Artisan Entertainment, 2004.
President of D.E.B.S. Academy, D.E.B.S., Screen Gems, 2004.
Tarik, George and the Dragon, Carousel Picture Company, 2004.
Voice of Stinktooth, Dinotopia: Curse of the Ruby Sunstone (animated), SD Entertainment/Hallmark Entertainment, 2004.
Manute, Sin City, Dimension Films, 2005.
Spinks, American Crude, 2005.
Voice of Clydesdale, Racing Stripes (animated), Warner Bros., 2005.
Voice of Elder Marley, Delgo (animated), Key Creatives, 2005.
Television Appearances; Series:
Body builder, Skwids, Nickelodeon, beginning 1996.
Voice of Rockwell, Crash Nebula (animated), Nickelodeon, 2004—.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Coach Griffin, They Call Me Sirr, Showtime, 2001.
Voice of future Wade, Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003, also broadcast as "A Stitch in Time: Future: Part 3," an episode of Kim Possible (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003.
Voice of Rockwell, Crash Nebula (animated), Nickelodeon, 2004.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Himself, The Miracle of "The Green Mile," 1999.
Host, The Making of "Planet of the Apes," 2001.
Himself, Daredevil: From the Comic to the Big Screen, 2003.
Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Arts and Entertainment, 2003.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Himself, The 72nd Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2000.
Himself, The 31st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2000.
Himself, The 2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, Fox, 2000.
(As Michael Duncan Clarke) Himself, The 2000 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2000.
Presenter, The 42nd Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 2000.
Presenter, The 2000 World Music Awards, ABC, 2000.
The ESPY Awards, ESPN, 2000.
The 14th Annual Soul Train Music Awards, syndicated, 2000.
Hollywood Salutes Bruce Willis: An American Cinematheque Tribute, TNT, 2000.
Himself, The 32nd NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2001.
The Seventh Annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, Fox, 2001.
Himself, AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Tom Hanks, USA Network, 2002.
(Uncredited) Himself, The 2002 ABC World Stunt Awards, ABC, 2002.
Presenter, The Ninth Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, TNT, 2003.
The 34th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(As Michael Clarke Duncan) Bouncer, "Flight of the Bumblebee," Married ... with Children, Fox, 1995.
Shaka, "Living Legend," Renegade, USA Network and syndicated, 1995.
Tiny, "Bourgie Sings the Blues," The Fresh Prince of Bel–Air, NBC, 1995.
Cardinal Carnage, "Men in Tights," Weird Science, USA Network, 1996.
The Bold and the Beautiful (also known as Glamour, Top Models, and Belleza y poder), CBS, c. 1996.
(As Michael C. Duncan) Big Mike, "I Do...," The Wayans Bros., The WB, 1997.
Frank, "Self Defense," Sparks, UPN, 1997.
Inmate, "Little Red Corvette," The Jamie Foxx Show, The WB, 1997.
Security guard, "High Anxiety," Living Single, Fox, 1997.
"Royale Dates Client," Built to Last, NBC, 1997.
Lucian Balboa, "Fans First," Arli$$, HBO, 1998.
Big Earl, "Before There Was Hip Hop...," Sister, Sister, The WB, 1999.
Himself, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1999.
Himself, Joan Rivers: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2001.
Himself, Raw Is War, USA Network, 2001.
(In archive footage) Himself, Larry King Live, Cable News Network, 2001.
Himself, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2001, 2002, 2003.
Himself, Mad TV, Fox, 2001, 2003.
Voice of Coach Webb, "The Son Also Roses," King of the Hill (animated), Fox, 2002.
Himself, Secrets of Superstar Fitness, Discovery Health, 2002.
Himself, "Daredevilin'," Player$, 2003.
Voice of Commander Baker, "Operation: Rescue Jet Fusion: Parts 1 & 2," The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (animated), Nickelodeon, 2003.
Voice of future Wade, "A Stitch in Time: Future: Part 3," Kim Possible (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003, originally aired as the movie Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003.
Voice of Mongo, "Smackmania 6: Mongo vs. Mama's Boy," The Proud Family (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003.
Voice of Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin, "Royal Scam," Spider–Man (animated), MTV, 2003.
Himself, Cold Pizza, ESPN 2, 2003.
Himself, The Early Show, CBS, 2003.
Himself, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, CBS, multiple episodes in 2003.
Himself, The Sharon Osbourne Show (also known as Sharon), syndicated, 2003.
Himself, Tinseltown TV, 2003.
Himself, The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2003.
Ask Rita, syndicated, 2003.
Voice of Rashid "The Rocket" Randall, "Linked," Static Shock (animated), 2004.
Himself, A&E Biography: The Rock (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2004.
(Archive footage) Himself, Celebrities Uncensored, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
Himself, Last Call with Carson Daly, NBC, 2004.
Appeared in episodes of other series, including Live with Regis and Kelly (also known as Live with Regis and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee), syndicated.
Appeared in a touring production of Beauty Shop, Part II.
Himself, Walking the Mile (also known as Walking the Mile: The Making of "The Green Mile"), Warner Home Video, 2000.
Himself, Beyond Hell's Kitchen: Making "Daredevil," Twentieth Century–Fox Home Entertainment, 2003.
Klingons in opening film, Star Trek: Klingon Academy, 2000.
Voice of Hawk, Soldier of Fortune, Activision, 2000.
Voice of SEAL operative Wardog, SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALS, Sony Computer Entertainment America, 2003.
Voice of Slaad Lord Ygorl, Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone, 2004.
Calgary Sun, February 28, 2001; April 18, 2002.
NW (Australia), April 3, 2000, p. 60.
Parade, May 14, 2000, p. 15.
People Weekly, January 1, 2000, p. 103.
Toronto Sun, December 13, 1999; March 1, 2000.
Winnipeg Sun, December 13, 1999.