Michael Clarke Duncan received his first Oscar nomination for portraying John Coffey in The Green Mile.
Michael Clarke Duncan portrays the unusual prisoner and his initials being J.C. surely is not by accident. John Coffey is on the death row for being found holding two girl who were brutally murdered. This is a rather unique role for Duncan who before and after this performance mainly portrays either hulking heavies or big guys who are rather goofy in some way. This one is a little different as the gigantic John Coffey who has some supernatural healing powers that can even bring things back from the dead.
This is not a performance that is suppose to have that much grey area. You would never really believe that he actually murdered anyone with Duncan's gentle giant portrayal of John Coffey. This is a fairly cut and dry performance in that regard as it should have been actually. He is suppose to be the man who has been wrong accused and convicted and is honestly a gentle soul with a special ability. With that in mind does turn John Coffey into the exact character the film would want.
Duncan makes Coffey a simple man but not a stupid man. He sees thing clearly quite simply, and says everyone in a straight fashion. Duncan actually makes this an endearing quality in Coffey. There is not anything he trying to hide he is genuinely the kind man he appears to be. Duncan makes it obvious that there is not a single hidden motive within Coffey he is exactly as he should be. Duncan turns Coffey into the purely good character Coffey should be.
Coffey though is not without pain as he is a modest man who does indeed detest evil men. Duncan is again effective in a mostly quite fashion as he again shows the simplicity in the way Coffey sees evil man and their actions. There again is not hesitations in Duncan performance that shows the strength and strong will inside the mostly modest man. Duncan is carefully to show that it is not really hatred toward the men Coffey has but rather he simply inflicts a righteous judgment against them instead.
Coffey really could have been portrayed very poorly if the actor failed to convey the simply goodness of the character without seeming absolutely genuine or ever being boring. Duncan achieves this well with his performance by finding just the right sort of characterization for Coffey all the way through the film. He turns Coffey into a likable and appropriately tragic figure in the end. We don't want anything bad to happen to Coffey, and it is heartbreaking when it does because of Duncan's realization of him.