Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Tragic Death In Hollywood That Nobody Remembers

The world is full of bad news, and every day, someone important dies. It's a fact of life, and it happens to the best of us, including celebrities we all know and love. Still, it's difficult to process a celebrity's death, because we're often left with constant reminders of their life thanks to their work. Movies, in particular, have a habit of permeating the zeitgeist for decades, so a prominent actor's passing tends to leave a big hole that can never be filled.

That's especially true of Michael Clarke Duncan, who died on September 3, 2012. His death came suddenly and surprisingly to his many fans. Despite his death occurring a decade ago, some Duncan fans aren't aware of his death, and ten years on, they're surprised to learn the big guy is gone. Duncan was only 54 years old when he died of "natural causes," following a series of complications resulting from a heart attack in July 2012.

Looper previously covered his death in a 2016 article and video listing "Actors You May Not Know Are Dead." If the comments are any indication, that title is especially true for Duncan. For whatever reason, his passing came and went without much attention. This raises a question: What news or significant event happened around that time that might have taken some attention away from the news of Duncan's death?

Michael Clarke Duncan was larger than life

Regardless of where you first saw Michael Clarke Duncan, you likely got the impression was a big guy. He was made to look even bigger in some of his films, but outside of some movie magic, the man was a giant. According to Biography, he stood 6'5" and weighed over 300 lbs., which helped him pay the bills while he was working to become an actor in Hollywood.

Before he starred in "Armageddon" and "The Green Mile," Duncan worked as a bouncer and bodyguard for many notable stars of the 1990s, including Martin Lawrence, LL Cool J, and Will Smith. According to the Rockland County Times, Duncan quit working as a bodyguard when another of his clients, The Notorious B.I.G., was shot in 1997. When he started acting in films, he played bodyguards, but it wasn't until 1998's "Armageddon" that his career truly took off.

While his size proved helpful in starting Duncan's career, the actor was conscious of his health, primarily where his weight was concerned. In an interview with CNN in 2006, Duncan discussed his weight loss of 90 lbs., explaining that he turned his life around following a visit with a doctor. He didn't go into detail about what the doctor told him, but he clearly learned his weight and health were something he needed to take seriously. He worked hard to turn his life around, but his heart health remained an issue.

Michael Clarke Duncan had a heart attack months before his death

Michael Clarke Duncan was larger than life for his fans, and few likely thought of him having any medical issues. After all, he appeared in an advertisement campaign for PETA, espousing the benefits of his vegetarian diet, so the last thing on his fans' minds was that he might have an underlying heart condition. Unfortunately, reality has a way of pushing back on our beliefs. While Duncan lost 35 lbs. from his vegetarian diet, his health wasn't especially good for years before he started it.

Duncan's health situation made headlines on July 12, 2012, when he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at a Los Angeles, California, hospital. According to TMZ, he was found by his girlfriend, Omarosa Manigault (now Manigault Newman), around 2:00 a.m., "in a state of cardiac arrest." She performed CPR and managed to resuscitate Duncan, who was transported to the hospital for treatment. At the time, Duncan's heart attack was big news, and before long, his condition stabilized.

Duncan's publicist told TMZ, "According to doctors, Michael Clarke Duncan suffered a myocardial infarction early this morning. He is now stable, and we look forward to his full recovery." Anyone paying attention to news of his heart attack likely learned that he'd stabilized, which appeared to be the case for several weeks. His heart attack occurred on July 12, and he died on September 3, so there's a significant gap of time where, as far as the public was concerned, Duncan was on the mend.

His girlfriend's actions became controversial

Michael Clarke Duncan's condition appeared to stabilize following his heart attack, but that wasn't entirely accurate. On the surface, Duncan seemed fine, but he continued to undergo treatment following the heart attack, as he hadn't fully recovered. Shortly before he died, he lapsed into a coma. His publicist later explained that his cause of death was from "complications of a heart attack." According to the BBC, a coroner declared he died of natural causes.

At the time of his death, Duncan was dating Omarosa Manigault, best known today for her controversial association with former President Donald Trump. While news of his death was certainly significant, reports of infighting took over the narrative, effectively pushing news of Duncan's death aside to focus on Omarosa's activities. Duncan's family accused Manigault of manipulating him in his final days. They further alleged she lied about their engagement and sold off several of his belongings without permission. 

Duncan's niece noticed several "red flags at the hospital," including Omarosa's questions about Duncan's will "when he was sitting there in a coma." Additionally, Omarosa wouldn't allow Duncan's family to stay at his home, which was problematic as they came in from out of town. Duncan's niece also said Omarosa asked for or attempted to secure his sperm while he was comatose — that and other issues made Omarosa center stage regarding Duncan's death. The infighting left Duncan's tomb unmarked for a year, which Omarosa blames on the family (per The Daily News).

Celebrities who died around the same time as Michael Clarke Duncan

When major actors die, they often take over the day's news. This can sometimes be overshadowed when a more significant actor or performer dies on the same day. Lauren Bacall died on the same day as Robin Williams, and most people reading this will probably recall one of those deaths more than the other. It's unfortunate, but it happens, so who died on the same day as Michael Clarke Duncan, who might have stolen his thunder?

Several notable people died on September 3, 2012, alongside Duncan. Some names you may know include Boston Red Sox player Bob DiPietro, South Korean religious leader and Washington Times founder Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, and Charlie Rose, the former U.S. Representative from North Carolina who fought for the tobacco industry. They are only a few notable deaths on that day. However, they didn't overshadow Duncan's death, as he was probably the best-known and youngest celebrity to die that tragic day. 

As the 3rd was a Monday, some other deaths from the week may have stolen some of Duncan's attention. Still, nobody as well-known as Duncan died that week, and the rest of the month didn't see anyone else's death who may have overshadowed Duncan's. It would make sense that folks weren't aware of Duncan's death had another prominent celebrity died around the same time, but that's not the case. Johnny Lewis died on the 26th, but that tragedy shouldn't have taken attention away from news of Duncan's death.

Significant events from September 2012

On the day Michael Clarke Duncan died, several events took up space on the world's front pages. Prominent stories on September 3, 2012 detailed the withdrawal of New Zealand forces from Afghanistan and a car bombing near the U.S. consulate in Pakistan. While significant, none of these world events supplanted news of Duncan's demise in the West, so something from another day in September might have done the job.

The month saw a great deal of conflict centered around ongoing NATO operations in Afghanistan and the continuation of the Syrian Civil War. While important, these kinds of events don't often overshadow the death of a celebrity like Duncan. That said, there were numerous events spread throughout the month that could have taken some of the attention away from his death. September saw the nomination of Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention for his second term, and Serena Williams won her fourth Women's Singles at the U.S. Open.

Still, one event on September 11, 2012, stole attention away from everything: the attacks in Benghazi, Libya against the U.S. consulate in the city. That attack resulted in the death of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, as well as three other Americans. News of the attack dominated the cable news outlets, especially conservative ones eyeing to replace President Obama in the White House. It's likely Benghazi took attention away from Duncan's death, as it was constantly covered through the rest of the year.

He wasn't in anything prominent before his death

Michael Clarke Duncan worked steadily since he appeared in an uncredited role in "Friday" in 1995. His big break came when he was cast to play Bear in "Armageddon." From there, he truly blew up thanks to his portrayal of John Coffey in "The Green Mile." He received an Academy Award nomination for that performance (as well as many other nominations and awards), so it's often considered as his most significant role. 

He followed this role with appearances in "The Whole Nine Yards, "Planet of the Apes," and "Daredevil," but none of those films achieved the same level of positive attention. His performances in "Sin City" and "The Island" were exceptional, but outside of some voice work and appearances in minor hits, Duncan's body of work began to decline. He worked throughout the early 2000s and managed to appear in television series, video games, and films, but achieving the same level of recognition he earned in 1999 for "The Green Mile" proved insurmountable.

As a result, he wasn't featured in the news often leading up to his death, so memories of his work began to fade. Had he been in something as successful as "The Green Mile" around the time of his death, the public likely would have had a difficult time forgetting about his passing. Because this wasn't the case, Duncan wasn't on a lot of peoples' minds in 2012 when he died. It didn't help that his posthumous releases were all duds.

His fans continue to show surprise upon learning of his death

Despite having died in 2012, fans of Michael Clarke Duncan continue to show surprise upon learning of his passing. On our video detailing his death, which features Duncan's image as its thumbnail, there are countless comments from fans indicating they had no idea he'd died as early as mid-2022.

Ralph said in 2017, "Michael Clark Duncan has to be the best supporting actor I've ever seen. I wondered where he went. He would have made a great X-Man character." In 2020, Frank289100 commented on the video, saying, "Michael Clarke Duncan [IS] ONE OF MY FAVORITE ACTORS. I ADORED THIS MAN TO NO END, AND I NEVER REALIZED HE WAS DEAD." A year earlier, PearlKenz commented, saying, "Michael Clarke Duncan was one of my favorite actors! I love him so much! I wish the best of [sic] him in heaven and wish all the best for him. I just finally found out he died."

Those are just a tiny sampling of the plethora of comments expressing sadness and shock fans felt upon learning of Duncan's death. The video continues to receive comments like these every week. In April 2022, Wheng Wen wrote, "Oh my, I love Michael Duncan not knowing he's dead already... May his soul rest in peace." Given the outpouring of love for Duncan, it's likely comments like these will continue

Why don't people remember that Michael Clarke Duncan is dead?

Michael Clarke Duncan has been gone for a decade, yet there are tons of folks who don't realize this, leading to the question of why that is. Ultimately, there are numerous reasons why people forgot about his death. If someone didn't hear about it when it happened, odds are, they aren't going to hear about it until it's mentioned in a video somewhere about actors people don't know are dead.

There were several notable celebrity deaths the month Duncan died, but his was likely the most newsworthy. As a result, it's unlikely any of those tragic losses took much attention away from Duncan's. The Benghazi attacks were probably the biggest media hog at the time, as this was a massive international story with widespread implications. While Duncan's death was notable, it sadly paled in comparison to a devastating ISIS attack against American interests abroad.

Add to that the fact that Duncan's star was somewhat less bright due to a lack of noteworthy cinematic or television appearances, and you have a death people may have heard of but forgot. It's a sad fact of life that people die all the time. While celebrity deaths garner far more attention than the people who celebrate them, they can often get buried under all the news of other deaths, international affairs, and the lives we lead. Duncan's death was tragic, but at least we can sit back and enjoy his performances, knowing a great man contributed a fantastic body of work to some incredibly entertaining movies.