Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on November 20th, 2012

Michael Clarke Duncan: From ditch digger to famous actor.

You may recognize Michael from his remarkable role as John Coffey in “The Green Mile” (1999) in which the 6 foot, 5 inch, 300 pound Michael played a huge, gentle black man with mysterious and profound healing powers.

As a death row inmate in a Louisiana prison in the 1930’s, he uses his healing powers to save others from grave illness or severe injury under the watchful eye of a prison guard played by Tom Hanks. Michael was so good in that role; he was nominated for an Academy Award.

But you may also recognize Michael from many other movies and television shows, for after “The Green Mile,” he became a very busy and successful actor.

Born on Chicago’ s South Side on Dec. 10, 1957, Michael Clarke Duncan at the age of 6 had to grow up in a hurry because his father left the family, leaving his mother Jean and his older sister Judy, to fend for themselves and to raise Michael.

Like many a lonely child, Michael dreamed of someday becoming an actor, immersed in his roles and loved by his audiences. But after attending Kankakee Community College and Alcorn State University, Michael returned to Chicago to help support the family.

For years, he was a ditch digger for Peoples Gas Company, and he spoke so often of moving to Hollywood to become an actor, his fellow employees laughingly called him “Hollywood.”

But in his late 30’s, he did exactly that. He moved to Los Angeles and studied acting, in addition to doing security work for Hollywood entertainers, eventually working security for actors such as Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx.

From those contacts, he began to get tiny movie parts, including a small role in “Armageddon,” (1998) a Hollywood blockbuster. One of the film’s stars was Bruce Willis and the two hit it off so well, that when casting for “The Green Mile” took place he recommended Michael for the part of John Coffey, a part Michael was determined to play.

In addition to all of his acting work, Michael did public service announcements, including for the animal rights organization PETA. For PETA, he exuberantly extolled the virtues of becoming a vegetarian which he had become in the latter years of his life

But on July 13th, 2012 Michael had a heart attack and on September 3rd, died from complications from that heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 54 years of age.

Michael is survived by his mother and his sister and by his fiancé, actress and Rev. Omarosa Manigault. But he is also survived by the many movies and TV roles he played which audiences will enjoy far into the future, roles that made Michael’s unbelievable dream come true.

Success Tip of the Week: Michael’s life is a testament to the power of a seemingly impossible dream that came true from commitment and action. If your desire is great enough, you too can find the courage to make your dream a reality.

Editor’s Note: To see a one minute YouTube video of Michael and Bruce Willis on the “The Larry King Live” show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFfYd3SqyEI To see an extensive list of his acting work http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0003817/ To see “The Green Mile” trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4ehiiBvDms

In the next KazanToday: A guardian angel who helped to bring hospice care to the world.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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