WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written in 2012.
The news of Michael Clarke Duncan’s untimely passing has us all feeling very sad, and I could not agree more with his “Green Mile” director Frank Darabont when he said “Michael has left us far, far too soon. We lost a great man and a great spirit.” That big, warm smile of Duncan’s always seemed to exude a kindness that was genuine, and he is a man who achieved his dream of becoming a movie star and earned the right to be one. This makes his death all the more painful to accept.
Duncan left us with a number of unforgettable performances, but many agree his greatest role was as the gentle giant John Coffey in “The Green Mile,” and it earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Special thanks need to be given to Bruce Willis, who he co-starred with in “Armageddon,” who recommended Duncan for the role to Darabont.
The toughest scene for Duncan, however, in “The Green Mile” came when Coffey tries to save the two young girls he is later convicted of murdering.
“I had a lot of crying to do, a lot of howling to do, and it took a long time to do it and it really drained me,” Duncan said. “I’ll remember that day more so than anything else because as we were filming that, everybody was rushing toward me.”
What made the scene work for Duncan is how everything around him felt “so real,” and he remembered getting incredibly scared every time Darabont said “roll.”
When it came to preparing to play such emotionally charged scenes, Duncan credited the training he received from noted acting coach Larry Moss who taught him “how to dig within myself.”
“I’m an emotional person, a very emotional person,” Duncan said. “All those tears you see in the movie were mine.”
Darabont still vividly remembers how “immersive and incredible” the experience of making “The Green Mile” with Duncan was:
“What sticks most in my mind was his (Duncan’s) devotion to his craft and the strides he made as an artist during that time, which was beyond inspiring to those of us who took the journey with him,” Darabont said. “Never has an actor more richly deserved the recognition of an Academy Award nomination than Michael did for his performance as John Coffey.”
Rest in peace Michael, you will be missed.
Kimberly Nordyke, “‘Green Mile’ Director Frank Darabont Remembers Michael Clarke Duncan,” The Hollywood Reporter, September 3, 2012.
Meriah Doty, “Bruce Willis helped Michael Clarke Duncan get his Oscar caliber role,” Movie Talk, Yahoo! Movies, September 3, 2012.
Dennis McLellan, “Michael Clarke Duncan dies; Oscar-nominated ‘Green Mile’ star was 54,” Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2012.