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Famed for his booming voice and 6-foot-5-inch frame, Duncan was born Dec. 10, 1957 in Chicago and raised by his mother and older sister. He played football and basketball at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, where he majored in communications, but dropped out to help support his family. Back in Chicago, Duncan worked as a ditch digger, a nightclub bouncer and even a stripper, but his mother encouraged him to pursue acting.
Moving to Los Angeles, Duncan became a bodyguard for the likes of Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J and Notorious B.I.G. before landing minor parts in such movies as Friday, The Players Club and Bulworth. Duncan’s big break came with 1998’s Armageddon, in which he played Bear, a member of a shuttle drill team tasked with stopping an enormous asteroid from colliding with Earth. During filming, Duncan became friends with star Bruce Willis, who recommended him to director/screenwriter Frank Darabont for his adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Green Mile.
His portrayal of John Coffey, the soft-spoken death-row inmate with extraordinary powers, proved a breakout performance for Duncan, who was nominated for an Academy Award. From there his acting career took off, with Duncan memorably playing Colonel Attar in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, the Kingpin in Daredevil, Manute in Sin City and Lucius Washington in Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby. The actor also lent his booming voice to projects like Brother Bear, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, Kung Fu Panda and Green Lantern.
Most recently, Duncan starred opposite Geoff Stults on the short-lived Bones spinoff The Finder.