Michael Clarke Duncan died of a heart attack at 54. He actually had the heart attack in July and spent the last seven weeks of his life in a hospital fighting for his life. It’s always sad when a beloved celebrity dies but Duncan’s death hit me harder than most. It’s not that I’m the biggest Duncan fan on the planet, don’t get me wrong. I was a fan mainly because he always delivered fantastic performances but wouldn’t wind up on my top ten list of favorite actors, either.
Duncan’s passing hit home for me because a year before he had his heart attack I was recovering from a heart attack of my own.
I was 33 at the time and much more fortunate than Duncan. I was in the hospital for a week and then spent a month recovering. After that it was back to work and my regularly scheduled program, changed by a few dietary alterations and an increase in medication. Duncan wasn’t so lucky. Despite the fact that his girlfriend, former Apprentice villain Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, performed CPR and kept him alive long enough to get to the hospital he didn’t make it.
I’m sad whenever I hear of a celebrity’s passing, even if they’re someone I wasn’t particularly fond of, but when I learn they died from a heart attack it strikes me hard. I think about how lucky I was and what could have happened. Was it that I was young enough and healthy enough to survive and live to see another day? Was it that my will to fight another day was strong enough to keep me going? Was it that I knew I had a loving and caring wife that didn’t want to leave alone?
I don’t know.
But here I am over year later and I’m still alive and Michael Clarke Duncan isn’t. Things like this strengthen my resolve to eat healthier and live right. I survived a heart attack at 33; will I be so lucky when I’m 54? It churns in my mind on occasion when I contemplate my own mortality.
Duncan didn’t have the most amazing career. After a series of bit roles as bodyguards and bouncers and the like he got a role in Armageddon where he met and became friends with Bruce Willis. It was Willis who put in a good word for him and helped him get the crowning role of his career as the wrongly arrested John Coffey in The Green Mile. He was nominated for an Oscar for that role and would sadly never reach the same level of acclaim. I tend to think he would have if he’d lived to make a few more films. While playing bad guys in both Sin City and Daredevil were both great performances by him, they weren’t going to get him any award attention.
But looking over his cinematic resume, you can see that even though he didn’t have one of those classic careers here was a man who loved what he did and enjoyed whatever he worked on. From voice acting roles in Family Guy, Green Lantern and even a few video games to appearing The Scorpion King and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li it’s obvious he was the kind of actor who would take pretty much any role he was given and make it interesting. He even turned out a hilarious performance in the comedy The Slammin’ Salmon, which I recommend if you haven’t seen it.
From the comments that other celebrities have made following his passing it is obvious that everyone who met him loved him. And even when playing villains you can see that inherent kindness in him. Michael Clarke Duncan was a fantastic actor and he will be greatly missed.
Tags: armageddon, Bruce Willis, Michael Clarke Duncan