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The Diva's interview with

Michael Clarke Duncan
One of the Stars of
The Island (2005)


Copyright Kamal Larsuel, 2005

It goes without saying, Michael Clarke Duncan is a big man. Big on screen and big in person. But what people really need to know is that he just might be the sweetest man in Hollywood with a big love for his momma.

Personally, my first memory of M.C.D is Armageddon. I remember the trailer showing them in slow motion walking toward the camera. And my first thought was “Damn, that is one big brotha!” that was the one and only impression he left on me, then came his Oscar Nominated role of John Coffey in The Green Mile. A performance that blew us all away, but was not without it’s detractors, many people in the black community were not at all thrilled by his portrayal of Jon Coffey as a “Yes Suh! I’s comin’ boss” type of person. We touched upon that and other race issues brought forth in “The Island”

I don’t want to read too much into this movie. It’s basically a chase movie..

Michael: that’s all it is.

you basically have a non speaking role in this film, But when I say this film, there was the folksy receptionist who knows your character and the folksy construction worker “Jesus must luuuuv you!” and Djimon’s character the assassin with a heart of gold and your character. I think there is a “Free the Slaves” motif. Ewen Character’s name is Lincoln. I don’t want to read too much into it, but did you think about the racial aspects of it?

Michael: Race never came into play with it for me. Same with the Green Mile. I never looked at the racially aspect of it. I didn’t play the race card. Because when you start looking too much into stuff, you start drumming up stuff that’s not even there. It’s just like people starting stuff when there is nothing to start. They just want to start something. “Why does John Coffey talk like this to the white man?” And I’m like because in 1934 that’s the way black people talked. And people still talk that way in the South if you go deep enough in there. So when they talk about race? I never look at race in the movies I do. I just try to make sure my mother likes it. If my mother likes them, then I’m okay.

Is it possible for you to take a step back and look at the fact that I think you are the only black person in the population and the scene where you are trying to get away “ the big black man they can’t take down” Do you not see that there might be some kind of racial dynamic? Some type of race-stereotyping at play?

Michael: Nah. No. because I did it for a friend. And that friend is Michael Bay. He called me and said, “I need you for 2 days work.” I said, “what is the script”? He sent it to me, I read it, I didn’t understand it. I asked him to explain to me what I would be doing. He told me and I said, “I’m in” In fact I never looked at that. Maybe I’m naïve, or whatever, but when people bring up race in a movie I’m like okay, what do you want? What is the perfect movie? My mother always told me that you can’t satisfy everyone. If you make these people happy then this side of the room is unhappy. If you try to satisfy that side of the room then these people are unhappy. So what do I try to do? I ask my momma ,”Momma did you like this one?” and she’ll say “Baby, you looked so good.” And that’s good enough for me. Once my momma signs off on it I’m good to go.

But you were only on screen briefly…

Michael: I wanted it to be more, believe me. I tried to get 7 days out of Michael Bay. I wanted to show the football player’s aspect of it. Maybe his wild side. He has a lot women, big house big cars. As opposed to this guy over here who is real nerdy and goofy, but Michael would not let me. I tried to get it. I said this is the 2nd time you’ve stiffed me. I wanted Cuba’s part in Pearl Harbor. But I was cool about it, I was over weight so I understand. But now? You could have let me get 2 more says and show this player’s other side. But he didn’t want to do it.

I actually looked at it kind of the opposite because I talk a lot about the brotha rule…

Michael: right right

I’ve joked that we need to get everything done by 2015 because we just don’t exist after that. And this movie took place in 2029 so I was a little happy with that outcome

Michael: (laughs a lot) right

and I did notice that there were other black people in the population. That stood out for me.

Michael: I’m glad you like it.

well anyway I think you’re kind of safe on this one.

Michael: Thank you.

[Editor’s note] Kidding aside, those were some valid points brought up and we should keep bringing it to the forefront.

As we moved on, I think we accomplished something not too many people can do- between talking about his momma and his career, we made Big Mike blush.

You’ve worked on a lot of films lately. Are we going to see you in American Crude and Delco?

Michael: American Crude is an independent film that I worked on. I had my first kissing scene. It was with Jennifer Esposito.

Look at you blushing!

Michael:: (blushing even more) cuz.. people think that when it’s a kissing scene you just kiss, they said we were going kiss she has a boyfriend and I have girlfriend so I told my girlfriend and she said, “cool just do your job”, so that was cool. That pressure was off of me. But you have to talk to the person too. Okay how are we going to do this. You know are we just pressing lips or are we going to do a little bit more? It’s an awkward situation for me. Then you have to get into the position and it’s not just getting into the position. You have to get close to her face and then hold that so the lighting can be fixed and the camera brought in. And you are just right here and the person is up underneath you and I’m thinking that I have to say something witty. You can’t think of anything to say so you look really goofy. At least my breath was fresh. My breath was fresh and my lips were really soft.

You mentioned that your mother plays a big part in your film decisions. Does she have a favorite Michael Clarke Duncan movie?

Michael:Yes. I think she likes Green Mile. She didn’t like Armageddon because of the fact of when I jumped up on the table with tiger skin drawls on. She called me at 4 in the morning asking weird questions was I on drugs?; was Hollywood turning me out? I said Momma I made a really big mistake and I’m sorry and that I would never do that again. So for this movie, I asked Michael “What’s the Wardrobe?” he said you’re in gym shoes and a smock and then he brought me these tiny little shorts. I said, “man Hell Naw. You got me when we film Armageddon had me thinking that shot was never going to be seen. You are not gonna have me wearing them thin drawls. I’ll wear biker shorts.” So that’s what we settled on.

Despite all the joking around, Michael is clearly serious, about his career, weight and primetime television.

You were tapped to play an athlete in this movie. Would you like to play another one?

Michael: Yeah. I would love to. Roles like that are really challenging because you have to really train hard for stuff like that. I think when every you play an athlete or someone who has passed on, you have to get it right. You have to get it dead on because people will remember that athlete or that person. You know when Jamie Foxx did Ray Charles, I could not tell the difference between Ray Charles and Jamie Foxx. He hit it dead on. But you had to be careful because everyone knew what Ray Charles looked like, what he sounded like and when you say that you are going to play that man, you have to be that man. When Will Smith did Ali, he was dead on. So to me, if I do something like, I’ve got to spend time with that guy if he is still alive, I’ve got to get his mannerisms down. It’s got to be that you can’t tell the difference. You don’t even see Michael Clarke Duncan, you see me as his clone. .

Anyone you’d like to play?

Herb Aderley who used to play for the Packers. Willie Davis who also used to play for the packers. A couple of people out there I’d like to play.

Did you play football?

Michael: Nah. My mother wouldn’t let me play. I never played one down. I played Basketball.

What College did you go to?

Michael: I went to Alcorn State University

Earlier you mentioned something about weight and you are looking pretty cut up. Are you on some special program?

Michael: Not really. I gave up red meat about a year ago. I just decided you know I looked in the mirror and I said ,”You know you are an actor, at least start looking more presentable.” You know when you have a big stomach, you can hide it behind big shirts and you know the women don’t really care, but when you tuck your shirt and the bulge shows.. I just looked in the mirror and said, “This isn’t sexy to me.” So I know it can’t be sexy to anybody else so I just decided to make a conscious effort to look and feel the best that I can. So I dropped abut 85 pounds.

Just be getting rid of red meat alone?

Michael: no by training in Jujitsu and Kick boxing also and I train it heavily

Ohhh okay because I was getting ready to give up hamburgers..

Michael: (laughs) I had to give it up. I was a really big meat eater and I feel wonderful now, though.

What if they asked you to put the weight back on for a role?

Michael: I wouldn’t do it. You know it gets to the point where you are just to big and you aren’t working because of it. But then you lose the weight and they want you to put it back on. I don’t want that going back and forth. If you tell me to go this way and I do it, then don’t tell me to go back. It’s a psychological thing. Psychologically it’s a mental battle. You see the abs are coming in you ‘re doing your crunches and feeling good. Then someone comes along says they’ll give me 5 million, but you have to gain 50 pounds back. That means I have start eating junk food again, donuts late at night them the stomach gets big again. I admire Renee Zellwegger. She can do that. She can go up and then come right back down and she looks good. And she gets paid big bucks. Someone offer me 10-15 million, I might gain a few pounds. I’ll gain 50 back then.

What did you major in?

Michael: English communications at Alcorn. I tried to go into Spanish class and French class, but I was a practical joker and I laughed all the time. The funniest thing is seeing football players trying to speak Spanish. So I had to withdraw out of that class. I could not take it. It was just too funny for me. I wanted to work for L.A.P.D. when I moved out to Los Angeles. No was hiring me. No one would ever look twice at me, in fact I have a card at home from an agent back then who said, “You will never make it in this industry, because you just don’t have what it takes.” I framed and it put it on a wall and I said, “one day I’m going to back to him”, but you know what? I don’t even have to do that. He knows who I am.

did you ever want to be a pro athlete at all?

Pro Football.

But you played hoops in High School, right?

Michael: Yup I made the team in high school. I was the only freshman who made it. The coach back then, they used to hit you with a paddle. The Star player came in late and I got paddled because I came in late and I didn’t understand that this player was a senior and he had paid his dues to be able to come in late. I was a hot head freshman so when coach hit me, I told you hit me one more time and I’m out and I really mean it. Now I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread at that school, so I just knew he wasn’t going to hit me. So when he hit, I walked straight to the door and told me if I walk through that door, I will never ask for you again. And I haven’t heard from that coach yet. That was my basketball career it ended my freshman year.

Other than the films you have been in, do you have a favorite science fiction film just as a fan?

Michael: War of the Worlds.

the original?

Michael: The original and the Tom cruise one. I saw that one I went to the premiere and I was blown away by it. And when it opened up on Wednesday morning, I was in line at 10 a.m. to see it again. That was so scary to me. I have cameras in my bedroom to watch my house and I went home and I was looking at all of my cameras; checking all my guns; looking up at the sky wondering if somebody is getting ready to something because did you see it?


Michael: Okay one of the scariest scenes was when that train came by on fire. And I’m thinking okay and then the second scariest part is when they all go to the ridge and see this big battle and the helicopters are zooming in and the rockets are going off, then all these hummer come back on fire. And then that big thing comes over the hill. I’m like “Aw Man!” I can’t even imagine something like that so I’m coming to have to say War of the Worlds.

Were you able to work with Anne Bancroft at all on “Delco”?

Michael: No. They had us come in different times and different days. I wish I could have though. That would have been some nice history right there.

What else have you got coming up?

Michael: You know, I’m trying to do a little television.

Anything in particular? Do you have a favorite show?

Michael: My favorites shows are “24” “Desperate Housewives” “The Amazing Race” - "24” the ending I was like how could they do Jack Bauer like that??? I told my girlfriend you go to see Jack Bauer! They are disowning Jack Bauer! I was almost in tears when he walked away, I said Jack Bauer is going to Mexico, how is he going to survive?

How about Alfre Woodard on Desperate Housewives?

Michael: I wanna be on that show! When she came in with her son I knew

Something is wrong!

Michael: Yup something is wrong!

You can be the mystery husband.

Michael: (sucks teeth) you don’t think I already pitched that, gurl? Come on now! I called my agent immediately They got an African American on D.H. what’s up with that? “Lost” is another one of my favorites. These are shows that I never ever miss. This season also is Entourage. I’m so glad it doesn’t conflict with anything.

What do you think about the depiction of the agent?

Michael: I wish my agent was like that.

really? He is ruthless!

Michael: You have to be that way in L.A. he gets his client the movies. And he is cutthroat, but he is trying to get his client the work and he is out there hustling. You don’t mind paying someone 10% if they’re doing that. But you do mind paying 10% to somebody who only calls you once or twice a week. I’m not trying to call no names, but I’m gonna call some names when I get back home.

Look for The Island in theaters on July 22nd.


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