Actor Michael Clarke Duncan was one of the most versatile stars in Hollywood. He made viewers cry with his emotional on-screen portrayal of John Coffey in The Green Mile (1999), where he starred as a wrongfully accused prisoner who hides a special supernatural gift behind his shy and childlike demeanor. The stunning role landed him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. A year prior, Duncan wowed fans as “Bear” in 1998’s Armageddon, quickly catapulting him into the spotlight. Duncan graced a slew of TV shows and films during his short but swift acting career, including The Whole Nine Yards, Sin City, Daredevil, Bones, and The Finder.
Sadly, the 6 foot 4 actor’s undeniable Hollywood winning streak came to end when news broke of his untimely passing on Sept. 3, 2012. He was 54-years-old. Duncan’s then-fiancée and powerhouse business mogul Omarosa Manigault confirmed the devastating news to media outlets revealing that the Chicago native had died due to complications stemming from a massive heart attack he endured in July of that year. According to a statement issued on behalf of Duncan’s family, the Oscar-award-nominated star “never fully recovered.”
Prior to his death, Duncan spoke candidly about his weight loss journey during an interview on CNN, noting how he was able to successfully shed 90 pounds.
While sources never confirmed what prompted the actor’s fatal cardiac arrest, the near 300-pound celeb told Men’s Health in 2012 that he loved living life to the fullest.
“I don’t regret what’s happened and I don’t worry about what I don’t have. I just do what’s in front of me,” he added.
During Duncan’s memorial service, a slew of celebrities came to pay their respects to the fallen star. Attendees included talk show host Jay Leno, Bones and The Finder creator Hart Hanson, The Green Mile author Stephen King and Duncan’s co-star in the film Tom Hanks, who shared a sweet story about the kind-hearted soul.
Omarosa recalled her first interaction with the Critics Choice nominee during the emotional funeral.
“Aren’t you that mean girl from The Apprentice?” she tearfully joked, according to Entertainment Weekly. “And then he worked every single day of our relationship to change that perception of me,” she continued. “The man you knew as an actor was my best friend.”
In the years following the actor’s passing, tensions stirred between Omarosa and Duncan’s family members regarding his estate. In 2018, The Apprentice alum made claims in her juicy tell-all book Unhinged that she “had to deal with all of Michael’s long-lost family members and associates who came out of the woodwork making demands for money and inheritance,” after his death, theGrio reported.
However, Duncan’s sister, Judy, argued that the former political aide’s comments were simply wrong. She claimed that Omarosa took advantage of her brother’s illness by convincing him to alter his will so that she would become the main beneficiary, ultimately leaving them penniless. Judy claimed Duncan “was not of sound mind when he made the changes… slurring words and stumbling around,” according to her interview with The Daily Beast. Celebrity Net Worth notes that the actor’s net worth was reportedly a whopping $8 million upon his death. Judy called Omarosa a “snake” for going behind the family’s back and cheating them out of his will. “People want me to comment on her, and it’s like, what can you really say about a serpent, other than it’s a serpent? I’m not a snake handler, so I stay away,” she said.
Duncan’s grieving sister accused the former Trump affiliate of manipulating her brother months before his tragic death. His niece also confirmed the allegation during the interview, noting how they were never actually engaged. “I know my uncle. Michael was not engaged—from what I heard, he was starting to see someone else. … At the hospital, it was brought up about her being engaged, and she showed my mother a picture of a ring that she had printed off from somewhere,” she explained. “And she was saying that that was the ring he had given her. But she never showed my mother the actual ring. And then mysteriously after his death, she started wearing a ring. But it was not the ring that she had shown my mother. It was a different ring.”
Omarosa later denied the accusations. The star previously told The Daily Beast, “I don’t control the estate or the finances and Judy knows it. If you saw all of her emails and texts to me, you would see that she is just trying to get money from me, and threatened going to press if I did not give it to her and that is a crime!”
She also blamed the actor’s relatives for failing to make a decision about his burial arrangement. Omarosa claimed in a scathing Daily News article, that the actor had been “lying in an unmarked grave for more than a year” at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills because his “sister, niece and cousins could not decide on what to put down.” The reality TV actress said she was so devastated by his anonymity that she “finally stepped in with the trustee of his estate” and ordered a “beautiful memorial plaque.” She further alleged that the family never visited his burial site.