September 4th, 2012
03:28 PM ET
Three of the men who worked alongside Michael Clarke Duncan in two of his biggest hits have offered their condolences and memories of the fallen star.
Director Michael Bay, who led the charge on Duncan's 1998 film "Armageddon," in which the actor had a breakout role as Bear, posted a lengthy statement to his website in honor of his colleague and friend.
Bay, "bummed at losing such a great guy in my life," reflected on finding the actor one day in a gym.
"He cried at the first audition because he was so proud to audition for a 'Michael [Bay]' and Jerry [Bruckheimer] movie,' he just wanted to make his mom proud. We gave him the role in the room," Bay recalled.
But Duncan's entrance into the big time wasn't without challenges - or, as Bay bluntly put it, "His first day on 'Armageddon,' he sucked. I remember looking to Ben Affleck and thinking we might need to fire him. But I told him 'Mike, I hired you for you, I want the sweet, Mr. Clarke Duncan I met in that room.' I said, 'the audience is going to fall in love with you.'"
And from that point forward, "he became the most improved actor on the set. That was the award he got at the end of the film. Everyone loved him, his infectious spirit and great belly laugh. ... It was a great time I will always remember, how proud I was to watch him grow into an actor. ... I'm really sad to lose him."
Duncan went on to share his talent a year later in 1999's "The Green Mile," which remains one of his most memorable performances.
Duncan starred alongside Tom Hanks in that film from Frank Darabont, and actor Hanks told CNN in a statement that he is "terribly saddened ... at the loss of Big Mike. 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.”
Director Darabont concurred with Hanks, telling CNN in a statement that he's "devastated" over the loss of Duncan, "one of the finest people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with or know."
The actor, Darabont said, "was the gentlest of souls—an exemplar of decency, integrity, and kindness. The sadness I feel is inexpressible. Our experience making 'The Green Mile' together was immersive and incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime journey. What sticks [out] most in my mind was his devotion to his craft and the strides he made as an artist during that time, which was beyond inspiring to those of us who took the journey with him. Never has an actor more richly deserved the recognition of an Academy Award nomination than Michael did for his performance as John Coffey."
Duncan, the director continued, "left us far, far too soon. We lost a great man and a great spirit today. My thoughts and condolences go out to his fiancée Omarosa and to his family.”
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