Thursday, September 6, 2012
Remembering Michael Clarke Duncan
I literally jumped this week when I heard about the death of gentle giant Michael Clarke Duncan.
I met him for lunch with a bunch of movie critics when he was in L.A. promoting his break through film the Green Mile in 1999.
What was I doing on a movie junket? I was a few blocks away at the TV critics convention and the economy minded Toronto Star Entertainment editor had ordered me over as a back stop.
So I had to watch the movie and wasn't too pleased with it.
Then there was a mass interview with star Tom Hanks who I told I had first met on the set of the TV flop Bosom Buddies.
But what about Duncan who at six feet five towered over everybody else?
What wasn't there to like?
He was charming, sweet in a childlike way, so very eager to please.
But he ate and ate and joked he was a growing boy. His weight the last time he checked was over 300 pounds.
But he wound up with a supporting actor Oscar nomination that gave him a brand new career.
His big break came opposite Bruce Willis in Armageddon (1998) after he was spotted exercising in an L.A. gym. Willis subsequently used him in three more movies: Breakfast Of Champions (1999), The Whole Nine yards (2000) and Sin City (2005).
Born In Chicago in 1957 he saw his father desert the family when he was just six.
His hugeness got him through college football but after his mother's illnesses he came home and first worked digging ditches for the gas company and later became a night club bouncer.
He moved to L.A. as a private security guard for the likes of Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J before getting small roles in Bulworth (1998).
But he stayed as a bodyguard until one client --the Notorious BIG --was murdered on Duncan's first day with him.
I wondered the day we had lunch about his gargantuan appetite.
His bulk was huge and I wondered if he'd bulked on something to become so commandingly huge.
But in 2009 he said he had switched to a vegetarian diet and he'd tossed out $5,000 worth of meat from his freezer.
Duncan reminded me of another gentle giant I'd interviewed around that same time: Mr. T. Both stars had health issues related to their bulk.
News reports say Duncan had slowly declined since his heart attack in July --being without oxygen for five minutes had resulted in steady organ destruction since then.
There'll be a public viewing Sunday with a private service the next day.