RIP: Michael Clarke Duncan

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan died on Monday in Los Angeles due to complications from a heart attack suffered back in July. He was 54.

Mr. Duncan was born poor on the South Side of Chicago on Dec. 10, 1957. His father left when he was 5, and his mother and older sister raised him. He attended Kankakee Community College in Illinois and Alcorn State University in Mississippi, where he played football and basketball. He majored in communications, but returned to Chicago before receiving his diploma to help support his family.

Mr. Duncan worked as a ditch digger for the Peoples Gas Company, as a nightclub bouncer and even as a stripper, under the name Black Caesar. His mother, who had dreamed of becoming an actress, urged him to try acting, and he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a bodyguard for stars like Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx. That led to a succession of minor roles, many as a bouncer.

While filming “Armageddon,” Mr. Duncan struck up a friendship with his fellow cast member Bruce Willis, who called the director and screenwriter Frank Darabont, who was casting “The Green Mile,” based on a book by Stephen King, and recommended him for the part of Coffey.

He had such a warm presence on screen. It was hard to not smile in any of the movies he starred in, whether it was The Green Mile or something goofy like Con Air, Armageddon, Daredevil, or The Scorpion King.

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