Currently co-starring alongside The Rock in the hit action film THE SCORPION KING, Michael Clarke Duncan is riding high. After his Oscar nominated turn in THE GREEN MILE, the actor has had a string of roles in popular films. In THE SCORPION KING, The Rock plays Mathayus, a warrior who is hired by desert tribes to put an end to the evil reign of Memnon (Stephen Brand). Duncan plays Prince Balthazar, who must form an uneasy alliance with Mathayus. Today we continue our discussion with Duncan.
Determined not to be lost in Hollywood's past, Duncan found a place in the action/adventure genre, appearing in ARMAGEDDON, THE WHOLE NINE YARDS, PLANET OF THE APES and THE SCORPION KING.
Ironically, the producers of SCORPION wanted Duncan to look nothing like his character of a death row inmate from GREEN MILE. They insisted he have scars across his face, which took a mere 45 minutes to apply, nothing like his three and a half hours in the chair for APES. Even so, Duncan tried to use this time to his advantage; sometimes rehearsing lines while his prosthetics were painted on.
"One time I had gotten in late," says Duncan, "and The Rock was there and he's like, 'So, you're late.' And I said, 'Yeah I'm a half hour late, I apologize.' And he said, 'Do you want to run lines?' and I said, 'Yeah, but give me a little time to study first.' And he said, 'Oh, you don't know them?' and I said, 'I didn't say I didn't know them, I just didn't look at them last night.' He said, 'Well, you got nominated for an Academy Award, you think you would read them.' We step on set, it's his close up and I'm off camera and I say my line and he's like... there's a pause and I said, 'You forgot your lines after teasing me all day? That's the difference between a true actor and a wrestler turned actor.'"
Duncan says the two love to chide each other but it's all in fun. "We laugh about it, we do that to each other all the time." But on one instance it got pretty touch and go when Johnson accidentally knocked Duncan to the ground during a fight scene.
"I thought it was supposed to be in the stomach and then the face," says Duncan. "But it was face first then stomach. So when the director yelled action I went in anticipating this and he came across and I went down and popped up and I said, 'Is that the best you can do? I've been waiting all my life to feel and smell what The Rock has cooking and that's it? Man, you wouldn't stand a chance with me.' But actually I was seeing all these little birds around my head, but I didn't let him know that."
Later for fun, while Johnson was in the middle of an interview, Duncan went to the makeup trailer and had them give him a cotton ball full of fake blood, which Duncan proceeded to stick under his lip before walking over to Johnson to ask him how he looked.
"I walk over and I say, 'What does this look like?'" says Duncan. "And there's this blood coming out and he's looking up at me and his eyes start to water and he was like, 'Michael I am so sorry.' I said, 'Man, just tell me what the hell it looks like.' And he said, 'I'm just so sorry Michael.' And he's crying and I'm like, 'That guy's crying, that's supposed to be The Rock.' Finally I take it off and say, 'Man, I'm playing with you.'"
Duncan says Johnson did feel really bad about hitting him, so bad that he went around telling everybody he bought him a watch but Duncan says don't believe him.
"He's been telling everyone that he bought it for me and that he's going to give it to me," smiles Duncan. "But he's not."
All kidding aside these two are close... very close and sometimes their behavior resembles a sibling rivalry. But when it comes down to it, don't look for either of them to take a real shot at the other.
"Being in a movie with him is like doing a movie with your best friend," says Duncan. "He's just so cool and he's not jaded. He's nice and he's down to earth. We have fun. We play games all day. I couldn't ask for anything more."