It was on this day, December 10, 1957, a towering giant of a man, Michael Clarke Duncan was born. Best known for his break-out role as convict John Coffey in the Stephen King inspired movie the Green Mile (1999), he had appeared in four films with Bruce Willis: Armageddon (1998), Breakfast of Champions (1999), The Whole Nine Yards (2000) and Sin City (2005). Bruce Willis called director Frank Darabont, suggesting Duncan for the part of convict John Coffey. He landed the role, getting critical acclaim as well as many other Awards and Nominations, including an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Duncan grew up in a single-parent household with his sister, Judy, and mother, Jean Duncan (a house cleaner), after his father left. Duncan grew up resisting drugs and alcohol, instead concentrating on school. He wanted to play football in high school, but his mother wouldn’t let him, afraid that he would get hurt. He then turned to acting, dreaming of becoming a famous actor. After graduating from high school and attending community college, he worked digging ditches at People’s Gas Company in Chicago. When he quit his job and headed to Hollywood, he landed small roles while working as a bodyguard for Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, and The Notorious B.I.G.; he let a friend take over for him the night Notorious B.I.G. got shot, which prompted him to quit that line of work.
Following his iconic dramatic turn as Coffey, Duncan was then cast in a string of films that helped to establish him as a star adept at both action and comedy: The Whole Nine Yards (2000), Planet of the Apes (2001), The Scorpion King (2002) (where he starred alongside his friend, The Rock), and Daredevil (2003) (reuniting him with Armageddon co-star Ben Affleck) as Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin. In 2005, Duncan appeared in two prominent action films, The Island (his second Michael Bay Film) and Sin City (again alongside Bruce Willis) where he played Manute, a powerful mobster. In 2006 Duncan appeared in a supporting role in the comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby as Lucius Washington and, in 2009, Duncan played Balrog in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li and starred as the titular Cleon “Slammin'” Salmon in Broken Lizard’s farce The Slammin’ Salmon.
Famous for his deep baritone, Duncan also provided his voice for a number of roles, for films such as Brother Bear (2003) and its sequel, Brother Bear 2, Kung Fu Panda (2008), Green Lantern (2011), TV series such as Loonatics Unleased and Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation ZERO, Quiznos commercials, and a number of video games such as Demon Stone, SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs, The Suffering: Ties That Bind, Saints Row, Soldier of Fortune, and God of War II, where he provided the voice of Atlas the Titan. He additionally reprised his role as the Kingpin in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series.
In 2009, he stopped eating meat and later appeared in a PETA ad campaign, touting the health benefits and his increased strength from a vegetarian diet.
On July 13, 2012, Duncan was taken to a hospital after suffering a heart attack. Media reports suggested that his girlfriend, Omarosa Manigault, had previously tried to save his life by performing CPR. Duncan’s publicist, Joy Fehily, issued a statement on August 6 that read he was moved from the intensive-care unit but remained hospitalized following his heart attack.
On September 3, Duncan died in Los Angeles. Celebrations of Duncan’s life would be announced at a later date. The statement also, for the first time, described Manigault as Duncan’s fiancée.
1923 – Harold Gould (actor: Romero, Dream Chasers, Seems Like Old Times, Kenny Rogers as the Gambler, The Sting, Rhoda, Under One Roof, The Golden Girls, Spencer, Singer & Sons, He & She, The Feather and Father Gang; died Sep 11, 2010)
1928 – Dan Blocker (actor: Bonanza, Cimarron City, Come Blow Your Horn, Lady in Cement, Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County; died May 13, 1972)
1933 – Mako (Makoto Iwamatsu) (actor: Red Sun Rising, Sidekicks, Taking Care of Business, Pacific Heights, Kung Fu: The Movie, Conan the Destroyer, Sand Pebbles, Hawaiian Heat; died July 21, 2006)
1941 – Fionnula Flanagan (Emmy Award-winning actress: Rich Man, Poor Man [2/2/76], Money for Nothing, Youngblood, Picture of Dorian Gray, How the West was Won, Hard Copy)
1941 – Tommy Kirk (actor: Blood of Ghastly Horror, Village of the Giants, Pajama Party, Son of Flubber, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Shaggy Dog, Old Yeller, Bikini Beach)
1941 – Tommy Rettig (actor: Lassie, The Cobweb, River of No Return, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T; died Feb 15, 1996)
1944 – Tisha (Patricia) Sterling (actress: Killer Inside Me, Betrayal, Snatched, Powder Keg, Defiant, Coogan’s Bluff)
1952 – Susan Dey (actress: The Partridge Family, L.A. Law, Love and War, Emerald Point N.A.S., Blue River, Sunset Limousine, Comeback Kid, First Love)
1960 – Kenneth Branagh (actor: Henry V, Another Country, Othello, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Much Ado About Nothing, Look Back in Anger; autobiography: Beginning; cofounder: Renaissance Theater Company in England)