I was saddened this week to hear the news that actor Michael Clarke Duncan passed away, due to ongoing complications from a heart attack he suffered over a month ago. He was 54.
In an acting career that lasted ostensibly for less than 15 years, MCD starred in a wiiiiddddeeee variety of both high quality flicks and classic crap. Amongst the former? ‘The Green Mile’, ‘Sin City’, ‘Bulworth’, ‘Talladega Nights’ & ‘The Scorpion King’ (a real guilty pleasure of mine).
Amongst the latter? Well, there was ‘Daredevil’, ‘Green Lantern’, Burton’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ remake, ‘The Island’ and… well… pretty much anything starring Bruce Willis.
Friendship… it’s a double-edged sword sometimes
The one common thread to most everything I ever read about Duncan off-screen was that he was the archetypical ‘gentle giant’, and a quality human being. I’m not going to lionize Duncan’s acting ability or screen presence. But, thanks to THAT voice, and his size, Duncan was invariably at the very least fun to watch, a surprisingly underrated quality in a movie star these days when you stop to think about it.
Ironically I’d been thinking just several days before he passed about ‘The Green Mile’, and about 2 other performers in that flick, Tom Hanks and Doug Hutchison.
I remember eagerly awaiting ‘The Green Mile’ before its cinematic release. I was (and remain) a huge Stephen King fan, and had loved ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. So when I heard Frank Darabont was adapting the latest King novella, you better believe I was there on opening day.
Literally opening day. 10:30am on a Thursday morning, to be precise (ahhh, to be a University student again, with less than 12 contact hours per week…). Whatever misgivings I may have had about a) seeing the film alone, and b) seeing it in a cinema with less than 5 other people, were quickly dispelled as I immersed myself in the story of Paul Edgecombe, the giant John Coffey (like the drink, only spelled different), and the 2 dead girls…
To me it remains, to this day, a movie forgotten by the moviegoing public far too quickly. Well cast, with some decent (if a little Oscar baity), actor-ing including a breakout performance by Duncan. A calmly paced, sprawling script. Interesting direction. Sure, it’s not the life affirming classic Shawshank is, but the prison period-piece is still a well worth revisiting by Darabont.
Having said that, one of the most memorable parts of that film is the loathsome prison warden, Percy Whitmore. Whitmore, compellingly played by a relative unknown (at the time) Doug Hutchison, is a cruel cowardly man, trading in on his family connections to keep his job at the Green Mile (death row in a Louisiana prison in the 30’s). After the flick however, Hutchison was rarely seen, his most notable acting role in the ensuing years being a short-term role in one of the latter series’ of ‘Lost’.
I just assumed that maybe Hutchison had been too effective in his role as the Green Mile’s antagonist, that he was forever typecast as the creep, the petty scumbag.
And then there was this…
That’s right… Doug Hutchison, freaky weirdo from ‘The Green Mile’, is THAT GUY, the 51-year-old dude that married 16-year-old (coughcough) wannabe starlet Courtney Stodden.
News broke this week that now that Courtney has turned 18 (coughcough), she was willing to pose for Playboy! To which Playboy responded, and I quote, “Nobody really wants to see that”.
BAM! PLAYBOY ZING!
Perhaps in Doug’s eyes, appearing in TMZ with this prematurely withering, ditzy, spray tanned, peroxidal crone once a week means that he’s once again relevant in Hollywood. Sigh… and at what cost relevancy, say I.
At around the same time as Doug’s latest fame-crazy facepalm, Tom Hanks was reaffirming for the world why he’s more beloved than Santa Claus, rainbows, and a basket of playful kittens COMBINED!
Hanks went viral after a young man asked him to pose for a series of photos in a restaurant, where he pretended to steal Tommy’s glasses. What followed…
To remind us…
That Hanks’ everyman appeal shall never wane.
How to tie all this together?
Well, after hearing of Duncan’s untimely passing, I did what many a movie-geek would do – I sought out his most notable performance, and slapped the disc into my DVD player for a reminder of how we lost a talented individual way too soon.
I soon found it virtually impossible to divorce my knowledge of 2012 celeb-u-tainment from a movie I’d previously enjoyed. Even the twin doses of MCD mourning and Hanksian charm weren’t enough to quell the revulsion I have for a man and his ‘child’ bride (coughcough) so desperately clawing at the underbelly of Hollywood’s D-list.
Which is strange, because as distracting as ‘Stoddison’ (you’re welcome, tabloids) is, is Hutchison any worse than… say… Charlie Sheen? Because I can still watch ‘Major League’ without picturing Charlie beating/shooting the female team owner. I can still watch ‘Grease’ without conjuring up images of Danny Zucco twisting Kenickie’s arm for a deep tissue massage. I never once imagined Batman losing his shit at Lucious Fox over the key lighting in Wayne Towers during ‘Dark Knight Rises’, and I’m pretty sure I’ve sat all the way through ‘The Terminator’ without making an inappropriate ‘Target Acquired: Latina Maid’ joke to The Wife.
And yet I legitimately cannot watch ‘Mean Girls’ without being distracted by the human shipwreck that is Lindsay Lohan. I cannot giggle at Michael Richards OTT entrances in any given ‘Seinfeld’ repeat. And I cannot suspend disbelief long enough to separate Percy Whitmore the villain from Doug Hutchison the… well…
Probably coulda just posted this picture and saved myself about 600 words, huh…
Why should one scandal weigh more heavily upon my psyche than another? Why should Lindsay’s slow, Winehousian descent be more distracting to me than Ah-nuld’s transgressions? Am I making unconscious, moral judgements? Am I on some level condoning Sheen’s ‘alleged’ physical abuse of (multiple) women, but condemning vacuous fame-whoring? Does this make me no better than the billions of ‘Two & a Half Men’ fans out there?
Ughhh… too much to ponder. I just wanted to watch a Tom Hanks movie featuring a ‘magical negro‘ character (conceived by a white writer, natch), death by electric chair, and an unnaturally long-lived mouse.
So thanks, Doug… that’s one more neuroses to clutter up my brain, and one more DVD gathering dust and just taking up valuable space in my collection.
Which isn’t to say I gave up altogether on celebrating Duncan’s life in my own, small way…
Because hey… any day you manage to find time to watch The Rock and MCD motherflippin’ sword fight whilst simultaneously rocking some seriously bad-ass hair extensions… that, my friends, is a good day.
Which is my ridiculously long-winded way of saying you will be truly missed, Mr. Duncan.
And eat a bag of dicks, Mr. Hutchison.