UPDATE: Frank Darabont found gold when he smartly chose the late Michael Clarke Duncan to play the sweet-natured tragic protagonist of The Green Mile, the adaptation of the Stephen King novel. Duncan so nailed a role that was the linchpin of the film that he came from nowhere to get an Oscar nomination and the opportunity to turn in other terrific performances. Darabont issued this statement about Duncan’s untimely passing:

“I’m devastated at the loss of Michael Clarke Duncan, one of the finest people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with or know. Michael was the gentlest of souls—an exemplar of decency, integrity, and kindness. The sadness I feel is inexpressible. Our experience making The Green Mile together was immersive and incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime journey. What sticks most in my mind was his devotion to his craft and the strides he made as an artist during that time, which was beyond inspiring to those of us who took the journey with him. Never has an actor more richly deserved the recognition of an Academy Award nomination than Michael did for his performance as John Coffey.

“Michael has left us far, far too soon. We lost a great man and a great spirit today. My thoughts and condolences goout to his fiancée Omarosa and to his family.”

EARLIER: Michael Clarke Duncan, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in 1999′s The Green Mile, died today at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center. He was 54. The actor had been hospitalized in July following a heart attack. Although Duncan was best known for playing a death row inmate alongside Tom Hanks in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Green Mile, the actor appeared in dozens of film and TV projects throughout his career, including The Green Lantern, Armageddon, Sin City and The Scorpion King on the feature side and TV’s The Finder and Chuck. He just recently completed In The Hive with director Robert Townsend and the boxing drama The Challenger.

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