*The world lost a giant screen presence this weekend when Michael Clarke Duncan passed away at the too-early age of 54, never having recovered from a heart attack in July.
In his all-too-brief movie career, Clarke Duncan managed to make himself into a truly accomplished actor, a wondrous combination of immense physicality with a heart to match his WWF-level physique. He had real skill and real talent, and Hollywood will be much less interesting without him around. Here are our picks for Clarke Duncan’s greatest movies:
THE GREEN MILE – This sterling adaptation of Stephen King’s excellent novella series wasn’t the first time Clarke Duncan had been on screen – he’d started his career by playing bruisers, bouncers and other giant men in movies like Armageddon and A Night at the Roxbury – but this film put him on the map permanently. Clarke Duncan earned an Oscar nomination for his supremely affecting performance as gentle giant and Death Row inmate John Coffey, both blessed and cursed with an extraordinary healing gift. Clarke Duncan didn’t get the Oscar, but he owns a role for the ages.
THE WHOLE NINE YARDS – Clarke Duncan showed the first inklings of his considerable comic prowess in this underrated Bruce Willis – Matthew Perry comedy from 2000, serving as the heavy to Willis’ in-hiding mob hitman. Seeing him toss around Perry like a rag doll is one of modern comedy’s true pleasures (double for anyone who couldn’t stand Friends). ()
ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RICKY BOBBY – Anchorman is one of the lesser entries in Will Ferrell’s catalog of modern-idiot movies, but Clarke Duncan’s showy role as Ferrell’s gigantic crew chief is a winning surprise. He gets off one of the movie’s best lines (“Okay, we have got to get that car back onto the race track or our sponsors are gonna —- a chicken!”) and his use of a knife to pry another knife out of Ferrell’s legs is hilariously cringe-worthy.
DAREDEVIL and SIN CITY – Clarke Duncan’s block-out-the-sun size was used to great effect in these two features, both of which cast him as the lead villain. He makes for an intimidating Kingpin in the entertaining Ben Affleck-fronted Daredevil adaptation and a terrifying Manute in Robert Rodriguez’s excellent Sin City.