Heather Graham arriving for the European premiere of The Hangover III at the Empire Leicester Square, London
Michael Clarke Duncan: 1957 - 2012
Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile
It was tragedy that lead the late The Green Mile star Michael Clarke Duncan into the world of acting. In 1997, the 6 foot 5 bodyguard was hired to look after rapper Notorious B.I.G. in Los Angeles. He let a friend take the job instead; the rapper was murdered that night. Duncan quit security for acting forever.
Raised in Chicago, Duncan was a studious child whose single mother persuaded him away from American football dreams, fearing he'd get hurt. His thoughts turned to acting, but as ever the path wasn't easy.
Having graduated from high school, the young Michael had to quit his Communications studies at University when his mother became ill. He found himself digging ditches at People Gas Company in Chicago as well as working as a bouncer in several Chicago clubs. Natural work for the burly baseball fan, but Hollywood was calling his name.
Once in Los Angeles, Duncan began working as a bodyguard for several stars including Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, LL Cool J and Jamie Foxx. Now closer to the movie industry, he began winning small roles in film and TV series, with character descriptions such as 'Bouncer', 'Body Builder' and 'Big Mike' (his real-life nickname) giving way to character names as his star rose.
Filming Armageddon in 1998, Michael Clarke Duncan became friendly with castmate Bruce Willis, who encouraged him in his career and would go on to appear with him in several more movies including Sin City. But it was Duncan's role opposite Tom Hanks in 1999's The Green Mile that put him on the map, winning him an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor In A Supporting Role. Many would say his role as the gentle giant was the movie's most memorable.
Duncan would then go on to star in The Whole Nine Yards along with a host of other heavyweight roles. Dedicated in his preparations, he gained weight for the role of Kingpin in Daredevil and power-lifted daily. In recent years he leant his distinctive deep voice to films including Kung Fu Panda and recently completed several films, including In The Hive with Vivicia A Fox.
Despite his imposing physique, Michael Clarke Duncan was known for his cheerful demeanour and kindness. A cat lover (he had five), the gentle giant recently became a vocal supporter of animal rights organisation PETA. He became a vegetarian and spoke about how much healthier he felt.
Michael Clarke Duncan
Tragically, Duncan was also looking forward to a new chapter in his life: he had been dating reality TV star Omarosa Manigaul for two years and reports indicate the pair were engaged to be married.
It was Manigaul who performed CPR on her partner in July when he suffered a heart attack. After a spell in intensive care, he remained in hospital until his death on Monday. Manigaul is described as "devastated".
Tributes from industry friends have been pouring in since news of his death, revealing a great deal of love for the actor.
"I am terribly saddened at the loss of Big Mike," said Tom Hanks. "He was the treasure we all discovered on the set of The Green Mile. He was magic. He was a big love of man and his passing leaves us stunned." The Green Mile director Frank Darabont called him, "The gentlest of souls" and rapper MC Hammer dubbed him, "One of the best among men on earth."
Samuel L Jackson paid his respects on Twitter, perfectly summing up Michael Clarke Duncan as both friends and fans knew him: "I'll miss the Big Bass, the Big Smile & the Big Hug. Michael Clarke Duncan, gone too soon".