Top 5… Michael Clarke Duncan Roles

Earlier this week, Michael Clarke Duncan sadly passed away, so in his memory here are my favourite performances from the big guy.

5. Manute, Sin City
Though at times he felt a bit lost amidst the shuffle of star wattage in Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s comic book noir, Duncan plays the ruthless Manute well, and leaves an impression in a film full of big characters, great set pieces and lashings of style. He shall be missed if Sin City 2 ever gets off the ground.

4. Cleon Salmon, The Slammin’ Salmon
OK, so his choice of film hasn’t always been the greatest, but this offering from Broken Lizard, the guys who brought us Beer Fest, is infinitely better with a little MCD as the former heavyweight boxer who now runs a restaurant. Although the focus is on his serving staff, Duncan stole the show whenever he came on screen, and had some of the best (and dumbest) lines: “Never assume. When you assume, you make an asshole outta yourself.”

3. Bear, Armageddon
Again, not the greatest picture, but Armageddon is one of my favourite crap films, not least because of the lovable giant that is Bear, a hulking behemoth who still breaks down and cries during an interrogation. I didn’t really need the shot of Bear flexing in his underwear, but Duncan’s physique is undoubtedly impressive.

2. Wilson Fisk, Daredevil
Wow, he did make a few bad films didn’t he? But I’d argue that Duncan’s Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, is possibly the greatest thing about this film (Colin Farrell is pretty good too). I mean, just look at that face, a full on rictus of fury as he breaks the neck of one of his own guards, using just one hand.

1. John Coffey, The Green Mile
Well this is hardly a surprise, but Duncan’s performance as the gentle giant with supernatural powers and a somewhat heavenly background was the make-or-break element of this film. Duncan impressed and surprised practically everyone here, especially given that prior and since he’s more famous for the more brutal or authoritarian roles that his stature is more traditionally associated with. He was justifiably nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar, which went to Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules, but should have gone in my opinion to Tom Cruise for Magnolia, with Duncan coming a close second and a clear first had it been many other years. R.I.P. big man, you’re presence in films will be sorely missed.

5 thoughts on “Top 5… Michael Clarke Duncan Roles

  1. I had completely forgotten that he was in Sin City. I thought he was a great Kingpin, though I wish they would have given him more to do. I remember when the casting was first announced for that, and my friend had a problem with the race-switch. I asked him "who could you possibly think of who has that kind of presence, and can act?" I'm pretty sure I won that argument.

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  3. Agreed, though I never read the Daredevil comics so wasn't aware there was a race switch. I can't really think of anyone I'd cast as Kingpin now, maybe at a stretch The Rock – he has the presence – but appearance-wise maybe James Gandolfini? Though I don't think he's tall enough. Tom Sizemore?

  4. Good post. Looking at your list makes me think that this guy really wasn't in anything that good (for the most part), but was a very memorable screen presence nonetheless. I'd have given the statue to MCD for The Green Mile and not thought twice about it, though. Maybe that'd opened doors to much better roles…

  5. Thanks. Yeah, other than Sin City and The Green Mile (and Armageddon for me) he didn't have too many great films, or at least not big performances in them (Talladega Nights is OK I suppose). He was still a great actor, and the world is a little less happy without him in it.

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