Michael Clarke Duncan will be forever remembered as the gentle giant of Hollywood – one of the most well-respected and generally liked actors of his generation.
Most of you probably remember Duncan from his role in “The Green Mile,” but his career was much more than one movie, even if it is a brilliant masterpiece.
In this article, we are going to remember the life and work of Michael Clarke Duncan and go over his last interview.
Michael Clarke Duncan was an American actor who lived from December 10, 1957, to September 3, 2012, when he died of natural causes.
The main cause of death was that his body couldn’t fully recover from the heart attack he previously suffered, which is what led him to a much too early grave.
In search of a career in acting, Michael first started working as a bouncer in several clubs, while simultaneously trying to land acting gigs in commercials.
Eventually, Michael started getting some roles while working as a private security detail for A-list celebrities such as Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, and The Notorious B.I.G.
Michael starred in dozens of movies and TV series throughout his career, but his breakthrough role was definitely as John Coffey in “The Green Mile.”
While filming the action movie “Armageddon,” Bruce Willis and Michael formed a tight friendship, and with Bruce’s help, Michael landed the role in “The Green Mile.”
For his undeniably brilliant work, Michael was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.
After his work on “The Green Mile” was over, many new possibilities opened for Michael. He can be seen in movies such as “The Island,” “Sin City,” “The Whole Nine Yards,” “The Scorpion King,” “Daredevil,” and “See Spot Run.”
One of his most popular roles in a TV series was in the spinoff of “Bones” called “The Finder”.
The Last Interview With Michael Clarke Duncan
Michael Clarke Duncan’s last interview occurred in early 2012 and Kam Williams had the honour of conducting it. These two discussed numerous topics such as family, life, business, and many more.
Here, we will mention some of the most interesting segments from that interview.
The interview started very casually as the two remembered their previous time together. Kevin remembered that their last interview happened a while back, while Michael was still doing “The Island” movie.
Michael’s thoughtfulness was once again displayed as he remembered that the two share the same birthday date.
After spending some time reminiscing, Kam mentioned how he still regretted the fact that Michael didn’t win the Academy Award for his work on “The Green Mile”.
As humble as he always was, Michael agreed but said that “others deserved it as well”. However, he did add that the though “The Green Mile” was undoubtedly the best movie produced that year.
Once they finished talking about Michael’s plans for the future and the projects he was working on, Kam asked him, “If there is one lesson that you’ve learned while working in Hollywood – what would it be?”
Michael replied, “Save your cash. This is a major one. While you might be extremely busy in one year, the next might be nowhere near as successful. This is actually something that happened to me once, but luckily, I had some money deposited in a bank. You know Kam, I’m not really much of a spender. But yeah, that would definitely be my advice – if you want to work in Hollywood, save your money!”
After talking about some ‘mundane’ topics such as favourite food, destination, and childhood memories, there was one question that really stood out – “Are you happy?”
Duncan answered this question by saying, “Yes, I am extremely happy. Keep in mind, I was once homeless and there was a period where I didn’t really know whether I would have anything to eat the following day. Once you go through all of that and then finally get a roof over your head, you realize that you have everything you need. You have no right to be unhappy.”
This testament alone explains what Michael Clarke Duncan was all about and why he was so popular among his colleagues.
While he has left a huge mark in Hollywood, he has left an even bigger one as a person.
You can watch the full interview bellow:
“Michael Clarke Duncan: Hey, how’re you doing, Kam?
Kam Williams: I’m fine, thanks. I think the last time we spoke was when you were doing The Island.
MCD: Man, that was a long time ago. But I remember that we share the same birthday. Isn’t that right?
KW: Almost. Mine is December 11th; yours is the 10th. But I also have a few years on you.
MCD: That’s alright. It’s all in your mind.
KW: I have a lot of questions for you from fans, so why don’t I jump right into them. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I think you’re a great actor and you should have won the Academy Award when you were nominated for The Green Mile.
MCD: Thank you, Patricia. I have to admit that I agree with her. I think I should have won the Oscar and I believe The Green Mile should’ve won for Best Picture. It was the best movie made by anybody that year, hands down.
KW: Patricia asks: Is there a movie genre or type of role that you haven’t had the opportunity to do that you would like to?
MCD: Yes, what I have not done is play the lead in a romantic comedy. I have a comedic side and I bet people would enjoy seeing me get the beautiful woman in the end. Something like that would definitely work.
KW: Patricia also asks: What advice can you give to young people who to follow in your footsteps?
MCD: First off, have a plan. Know what you want to do, because if you don’t know what you want to do, you’ll get stuck. It’s not as easy as people think. A lot of kids think they can just go to Hollywood and become an actor or actress. It’s not that easy. There are millions of kids who come out here wanting to act. So, you have to have a plan, and you have to stick with that plan, because it’s not going to be easy by any means. You’re aware of that, Kam, because of all the degrees you have. You had to go to school and study. And aspiring actors need to take acting classes… know your craft inside and out… and get a job when you arrive in L.A. Don’t depend on acting as your sole source of income. Work nights, so you can have your days off to attend auditions. Have something to fall back on. That’s what my mother taught me, and it’s critical in Hollywood.
KW: You play voice of Kilowog in Green Lantern. Did you ever have to be on the set for this role?
MCD: No, I was never on the set, Kam. Martin [Director Martin Campbell] had me in a studio in Burbank. He knew what he wanted and was very specific. He’s an excellent director who really drives you and pushes you hard.
KW: Teresa Emerson wants to know whether you enjoy doing voiceover work.
MCD: Oh, of course you have to love it any time you can go to the studio in pajamas, and the only preparation you have to do is take a shower and brush your teeth. You don’t even have to memorize your lines. The script is right there in front of you. So, yeah, I love voiceover work. It’s right up there with acting.
KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Because of your size, you are often cast in a role of “The Heavy.” Since that is not the real you, how difficult is it to assume that role?
MCD: It’s kind of difficult, because once people enjoy you as “The Heavy,” they want to see you as that all the time. And if you become pigeonholed, then there are only certain limited roles you can play. To help, I’ve trimmed my weight down to a solid 275 instead of being over 300 pounds.
KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What is the most important lesson that you have learned working in Hollywood?
MCD: Save your money. Save your money, because you could be very busy for a year, but then have the next one off. That’s happened to me, but I put my money in the bank, Kam. I don’t splurge. So, my best advice about working in Hollywood is: Save your money!
KW: Judyth also asks: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would it be?
MCD: How they do business. Kam, if you shake my hand and tell me we’re going to do this or that project together, I’d believe you. But when I first got to Hollywood, I’d believe all the people who’d tell me they were going to put me in a movie. And I still haven’t heard back from a lot of them to this day. I don’t like it when someone can look you in the eye and lie to you, or pretend that they’re more than you.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
MCD: [LOL] No, I just like answering the questions posed, because people can really come up with some off the wall stuff.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
MCD: I made myself some pancakes this morning that were off the chain. I have to admit that I love pancakes and vegetarian meatloaf. I am a food connoisseur, although I don’t eat pork. I’m lucky my girlfriend is a great chef, since eating is one of my favorite pastimes.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
MCD: Cheesecake! I just had some Cinnamon Chocolate Cheesecake, some German Chocolate Cheesecake and some Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory the other night. So, I had to work my butt off the next day, because I’m trying to get in shape for my new television series, “The Finder.”
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
MCD: An accomplished actor who was homeless twice. A person who was down on his luck in Chicago in 1996, crying his eyes out on the lakefront. I see a guy who told himself: There ain’t no use in crying because nobody cares. You can either be a bum or follow your dream and try to make it. Today, I see a successful person when I look in the mirror.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
MCD: [Chuckles] My earliest memory is of the Christmas my mother bought me an Aurora race car set. That was the only gift I got that year, but I was the happiest kid in the world when she bought me that. I didn’t care about anything else. But that was back in the day, I don’t even know if Aurora’s still in business anymore. That and Electric Football were my favorites when I was a kid
KW: Tudor Electric Football! I had that, and an HO-scale race car set, too.
MCD: See, you know what I’m talking about, Kam. I can reminisce with you without sounding weird.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
MCD: That’s a no-brainer. Just to have my mother’s health restored. Arthritis and other ailments have taken their toll, and she’s not as vibrant as she used to be. My wish would be to have her health back the way it was in the Sixties when she would play catch with me, throw a football with me, and teach me how to hold a bat. Yeah, my wish would be for my mother to have excellent health.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
MCD: Yes, extremely happy. You gotta remember I was homeless. Whenever I think I have something to complain about. I go outside, walk across the street and look at my home, and remind myself of the time I was living on the damn lakefront in a car full of garbage bags with clothes, and ask myself, “What do you possibly have to be upset about?” Kam, I have nothing to complain about. A friend of mine was just murdered, shot five times last Thursday as he was driving on a freeway entrance ramp. The last thing he did was dial 9-1-1. Another thing my mother told me as a child was, “Always wake up with a smile on your face, because a lot of people who went to sleep last night are not with us this morning.” So, I’m extremely happy, Kam.
KW: Looks like your mother has given you a lot of sound advice over the years.
MCD: Yeah, she’s never steered me wrong. I remember when Martin Luther King was shot and people started rioting in Chicago. My mother whacked me on my butt just because I balled up a piece of paper and threw it out the window. She asked me, “Why did you do that?” I said, “Because they killed Martin Luther King.” She said, “just think, where are we gonna buy our groceries, if they burn all the stores down?” I hadn’t thought of that.
KW: I had the impulse to riot when King was killed, too, but I was lucky to have a teacher who suggested that maybe I should channel my energy constructively and become a revolutionary student instead of a rioter.
MCD: And look what happened, from those words to you now. That teacher had a profound impact on the way you think by saying that one phrase. And then you went on to Ivy League schools. Growing up back then, people cared about you. If you misbehaved, the elders in the neighborhood would pull your coat. You got all your degrees because of the way that your parents, your teachers and your community raised you and helped you get there. You probably had some excellent teachers who inspired you whose names you can still recall to this day, just like I did.
KW: No need to apologize.
MCD: Believe me, Kam, I’m the biggest sports fan there is, I love sports, but I’m still convinced that it’s teachers who deserve the big salaries, not athletes. When I reflect on my childhood, I could always count on my mothers and my teachers the most.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
MCD: I try to have a good laugh every day. Every day, Kam!
KW: Well, thanks for another great interview, Mike, and best of luck with both Green Lantern and the new TV show.
MCD: Hey, much love, Kam, and give your wife and son my regards.
KW: Will do, brother.
MCD: Take care, man.”