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Michael Clarke Duncan's Five Most Surprising Roles [Happy Trails]

Daredevil (2003) Wilson "The Kingpin" Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan)

Michael Clarke Duncan's career went in directions no one ever expected. Yesterday came the surprising news that Duncan had died at age 54. The Oscar-nominated actor passed away in the hospital after a heart attack two months ago.

Michael Clarke Duncan could have just played stereotypes, stuck with playing the "big black man." After all, Duncan was 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighed an average of 300 pounds. He could have built his career on that alone. But he chose roles that let him explore his acting skills. He constantly played against his stereotype.

He was known as a "Gentle Giant." He knew it. He knew he was intimidating.

Duncan once said, "the minute you go into a room, you have to break the ice because people are gonna be afraid of you automatically, just like they were with John Coffey [of The Green Mile]. This is the sweetest guy in the world, and I'm basically the same way. I go in the room and try to make a joke, something to let people know, 'Oh, he's not the way he looks.' "

He started out as a ditch-digger for Chicago's gas company when a friend told him a producer of a traveling stage show needed a bodyguard. From there he went on to star in Armageddon and many other hits. Here are some of his most surprisingly unstereotypical roles.

5. Armageddon's Bear
In the 1998 film Armageddon he played "Bear" a miner. Again, he could have just been the gruff angry black man. Instead he played him with warmth and humor. When they all made requests for saving the world, he only had one; to stay at the Presidential White House. In this clip he shows his humor.

4. Planet of the Ape's Colonel Attar
In Planet of the Apes (2001), he played Attar the leader of General Thade's Army. Not only did he get to deliver the classic line "Get your hand off me you d**n dirty human" but in the dinner scene he showed a deep religious sentiment. He forcefully demanded that they bow their heads in prayer. Buried beneath make-up he still manages to give a powerful performance.

3. Chuck's Mr. Colt
In the TV show Chuck (2007) he played Mr. Colt. A villain-for-hire in the first season two premiere episode "Chuck vs. the First Date." While he does play a big bruiser, he also shows a sense of humor saying his FULCRUM bosses gives him the "Heebie Jeebies." Michael Clarke Duncan always did comedy very well.

2. The Island's Starkweather Two Delta
In The Island (2005), Michael Clarke Duncan plays Starkweather Two Delta, the clone of football player Jamal Starkweather. He has the same child-like innocence of the others, but his size makes him more touching. Duncan's character dreams of going to "The Island" and wakes up as they're harvesting his organs. His desperate escape was incredibly moving.

1. Daredevil's The Kingpin
Michael Clarke Duncan's most surprising and uncharacteristic role was in the film Daredevil when he played  Wilson Fisk aka "The Kingpin." In the comics, the character is a fat, bald white guy. Duncan was none of these things.

Even though Duncan weighed 290, he actually had to gain 40 pounds of muscle to play him. Michael Clarke Duncan addressed the controversy of his casting by saying fans "watch movies to say, 'Hey, that's not like the comic book.' But I want them to get past that and just see the movie for what it is and see me for what I am—an actor." He played the crime boss with a level of sophistication that the comic book character never had.

Happy Trails, Michael Clarke Duncan. You were a rare actor and we'll never see another like you.

What about you? How will you remember Michael Clarke Duncan? Did he ever surprise you as an actor?
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  1. He was pretty bad-ass in Daredevil, especially at the end when he takes off his shirt so he can beat the crap out of Ben Affleck, something a good many people have wanted to do.

    1. Pat, he was awesome in Daredevil. "This is something you wouldn't understand." Is get in line too.

  2. Playing Ricky Bobby's NASCAR crew chief was pretty non-stereotypical too. He will be missed.

    1. I didn't know he was in that movie Jessica. I'll have to watch it.

  3. jeremy [retro-zombie]September 4, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    he was a cool guy and shared his coolness with us... he will be missed. I loved him as Franklin 'Frankie Figs' Figueroa... rest in peace...

  4. Five great roles chosen. I thought his Kingpin was marvelous. He was a terrific presence in everything I saw him in. RIP.

  5. It's been so long, forgot he was in Daredevil. Died way too young.

  6. I will always love him as Balthazar in The Scorpion King. And as Leo Knox on TV's the Finder. I also loved him as Coach Little on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. He was a marvelous actor and a fellow South Sider and Sagittarian. I loved that man big time and will miss him.

  7. He is one of my top five actors. His smile was absolutely contagious....he was the reason I LOVED Finder...I was so sad they cancelled it, but now I am glad because the show would not have survived his loss. He will be missed...dearly.

  8. I'm so glad you wrote this! I'm so sad about his passing. :(

  9. His Kingpin was one of the many reasons I love "Daredevil."

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