Hollywood celebrates the life of Michael Clarke Duncan.
From Tom Hanks to Jay Leno, some of Hollywood’s biggest stars took to the stage yesterday to pay tribute to actor Michael Clarke Duncan in a ceremony that moved between solemn and silly, moving and funny. During the funeral, Duncan’s doctor revealed that the 54-year-old actor was on a pacemaker.
The service at the Forest Lawn Memorial Parks and Mortuaries in Los Angeles lasted nearly four hours, and featured plenty of moving speeches, stirring gospel performances and plenty of pictures of Duncan and his moonbeam smile, according to the Associated Press.
“Just to see such a pure heart and pure kindness, and to see it taken so early,” Leno said, his voice cracking. “There are no sadder words than what might have been.”
Leno said Duncan’s smile “grew another millimeter on each end” when he met reality star Omarosa Manigault, with whom he was planning a wedding—and who is credited with reviving him with CPR when she found him at his Los Angeles home.
Holly Robinson Peete spoke about meeting Duncan when he was still a celebrity bodyguard, while Loretta Devine talked about how the actor would do anything for a laugh.
The crowd saw music legend Stevie Wonder via video, as he called Duncan a “gentle giant” and performed the opening verses of his classic song, “As.” There was also a performance by singers Angie Stone, Kelly Price, Kenny Lattimore and Abraham McDonald, backed by a gospel choir. State Assemblyman Mike Davis and Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson also attended, with the council declaring Monday as “Michael Clarke Duncan Day.”
Tom Hanks grew extremely close to Duncan during the filming of their classic “The Green Mile,” the movie that made Duncan a star. Stephen King, who wrote the story on which the movie was based, wrote a letter read by Frank Darabont, the director of the movie, in which King said “No one has ever done a character I wrote more justice.”
Hanks said he liked to tease his late co-star about his penmanship, which he described as “loopy and huge.”
“It looks like a 12-year-old girl who loves horses wrote it,” Hanks said.
Hanks told a story of a young Duncan on the South Side of Chicago who one day decided he would join a gang and came home to report this to his mother—who hit him upside the head with a frying pan that still had the sizzling pork chops inside.
Assuming the deep voice of the 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound Duncan, Hanks acted as if he were explaining to his fellow gang members that his mom wouldn’t let him be in a gang.
“If it wasn’t for that mama and the frying pan with a pork chop, we would not be here today celebrating the life of Michael Clarke Duncan,” Hanks said.
In delivering the eulogy, Rev. Dr. H. Beecher Hicks closed by telling Omarosa, “Don’t fret, he’s in heaven.”