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As Hollywood continues to mourn the loss of Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, the director who gave him his first big role is reflecting on the actor’s rocky but rewarding entree into the world of blockbusters.
Michael Bay, who directed Duncan in Armageddon and The Island, shared memories of of the actor in a post on his website.
PHOTOS: Michael Clarke Duncan’s Most Memorable Roles
“We found him in a gym. He cried at the first audition because he was so proud to audition for a “Michael and Jerry [Bruckheimer] movie”, he just wanted to make his mom proud. We gave him the role in the room,” Bay wrote.
As Bay remembers it, things didn’t start off smoothly for Duncan on the Armageddon set.
“His first day on Armageddon he sucked,” Bay wrote. “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’.”
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But by the end of the shooting, Duncan was the “most improved actor on the set.”
“Everyone loved him, his infectious spirit and great belly laugh,” Bay wrote. “It was a great time I will always remember, how proud I was to watch him grow into an actor. Watching him study all the guys from Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck to Steve Buscemi, and Owen Wilson.”
Other Hollywood fixtures have paid tribute to Duncan.
The actor’s Armageddon co-star Bruce Willis also remembered the actor fondly, saying, “Michael Duncan was a great actor, a great human being, and he was my very dear friend. I will miss Big Mike in a Big Way.”
STORY: Hollywood Pays Tribute to Michael Clarke Duncan
After his work in Armageddon, the actor went on to earn an Oscar nomination for his role in 1999’s The Green Mile, in which he stared as a gentle death row inmate opposite Tom Hanks.
The Green Mile director Frank Darabont said, “Michael was the gentlest of souls — an exemplar of decency, integrity and kindness. The sadness I feel is inexpressible.”
Duncan died Monday at the age of 54. On July 13, the actor was hospitalized for a myocardial infarction, which his reps said he never recovered from. His fiancé, Omarosa Manigault, was with him in the hospital shortly before his death.
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