Good to be the King: Michael Clarke Duncan on 'Daredevil'

Fri, February 7th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

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Continuing our coverage of Twentieth Century Fox's "Daredevil" press junket CBR News/Comics2Film presents this transcript of the round-table interview with Michael Clarke Duncan, who plays Kingpin in the movie. Be sure not to miss our transcript of the interview with Colin Farrell.

Warning: Adult language in the following.

[Michael Clarke Duncan is Kinpin]Q: What's your typical breakfast?

Michael Clarke Duncan: Pancakes, eggs and sausage. I love cream of wheat cakes. You mix a little bit of cream of wheat in the batter. It's wonderful. It's really good. Do that with oatmeal, too. It's really good. I know it sounds kind of gross, but it's good.

Q: What is you protein intake?

MCD: I eat everything, but I get on that treadmill like I did this morning and try to keep it down and try to keep it looking good.

Q: In this movie, you didn't get a lot of chances to throw a lot of punches, but it was nice to see you in action.

MCD: Yeah. It was kind of nice to be able to play an evil character for once, one that everybody hated. And nice to toss Ben Affleck around a little bit. Let him know he's not that sexy. So that was a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing that.

Q: It's a comic book movie, so there's a sense that it could be over the top, but do you also look for humanity in the character?

MCD: No. I just wanted to play him as a ruthless, killer type of person. Kingpin doesn't have any conscience for anybody else but himself, and that's what I tried to bring over on the screen. I didn't want anybody to think that this guy was later gonna turn nice or have a heart of gold. He doesn't have a heart of gold. He rules with an iron fist and I wanted to bring that across.

Q: Did you have to put on some weight for the part?

"...nice to toss Ben Affleck around a little bit. Let him know he's not that sexy."


- Michael Clarke Duncan
MCD: Yes, actually, I put on forty-five pounds, which was very hard to get off. But it was a thing that I was trying to really make the character bigger than life. Mark Steven Johnson, the director, told me that we had to stick pretty close to the comic book.

And I said, "Well now you say that. You made one big difference. The guy is white in the comic books and here I am black. So now you're telling me we're trying to stick close."

So I tried to stick close with the cigars and everything. Stuff like that. I didn't want the cigars in there, because I don't smoke, but Mark advised me that it was a very important part of the character, and without that the character wouldn't look right. Because I came up with some more ideas where I had, like maybe a hand-grip or something. Mark said, "Well we could do that, but I don't think it would stay true to the character's personality. He has to have that big cigar and he has to have that empowering look."

So we went with the cigars.

Q: How did you like wearing suits as opposed to the other superhero outfits?

MCD: I'll tell you I like Elektra's outfit a lot better than anyone else's! Jennifer Garner just looks super in her outfit. That woman has some abs of steel, I'll tell you!

But I like dressing up in suits and I was just talking to one of the producers and we were saying, it would really be nice if Fox and Sony could get together and bring Spider-Man and Daredevil together. It would really be nice, but I don't think you could ever get those guys just to sit like this and say, "OK. This is what we're going to do and you guys get this and we get that." They were just saying it would be virtually impossible, but I feel nothing's impossible. I mean you have two big conglomerates and they have two big things going.

In the cartoons they did fight. Spider-Man and Daredevil had a really good fight and the Kingpin orchestrated all that. So I think it would really be nice if they could get that together.

Q: In the movie you literally had to come off larger than life.

MCD: At the time I was weighing about 300. I weigh 290 now. At the time I really didn't look like I do on camera. In the comic books he's 6'7", he's about 450 pounds. I knew I wouldn't gain over 345 pounds or 340. It would seem like that is a big, heavy guy on the camera.

I told Mark I would gain as much as possible without going into any health factors or getting high blood pressure and stuff of that nature because sometimes if you gain all that weight and don't work out, that's what comes next.

But my concern was just gaining the weight and making sure I had no padding in my suits, because when I first went to a wardrobe fitting I had all these pads everywhere. I said, "Mark, I don't need all that." He said, "Well, you know, in two months we might have to put..." I said, "I don't need padding in any of my suits. It looks stupid. It looks really comical."

The padding came up to here and it just looked really ridiculous. I said, "You got me all big up here and all small," and I said, "No. Please." And he said, "Well do you think you can muscle up in two months," and I said, "with no problem."

So we came back to the last wardrobe fitting and he loved what he saw and he said, "Do you have any pads in," and the wardrobe person said, "Nope. No pads in there."

So, we did it.

Q: You went up to 345 and now you're down to 290. Is it hard to take off that weight?

[It's good to be the King]MCD: I told Mark, "Make sure that when you tell me I'm wrapped that there are no reshoots involved because I'm very serious about getting back into the gym and working out." He said, "I promise you, we have no reshoots for you. Everything looks good. You look good. Everything's great. When you're wrapped, that's it."

So the day that I got wrapped I went straight to my gym that I have in the basement and I worked out and I've been working out like six to seven days ever since then. I try to watch what I eat. I don't eat too much after eight o' clock. Just try to live a healthy lifestyle. When you're big, that's one thing, but when you get too much weight around your heart, it's really not that good.

So just by doing that every day, getting on the elliptical for a half hour, then weight training for about an hour. So about an hour and a half in the gym, it really suits me just fine.

Q: How long did it take to take that off?

MCD: I'd say about two months. About two good months. Maybe two and a half, but about two good months of working out seven days a week.

Q: Did you smoke cigars then?

MCD: No. Never. I don't like cigarette smoke. I don't like cigar smoke. I don't like to drink. This is all I drink: cranberry juice, water and milk. I don't like any of those negative things.

Q: Did you do any green screen work?

MCD: I didn't have any green screen work. No, they didn't have a lot of green screen work. Jennifer had a lot. Especially Colin had a lot, I have to say, who was amazing as the villain. I mean, he won me over once I saw him.

It's one thing to look over on the set and see them doing it, but once you see it on the screen, then you really realize the impact. That guy is so good at being crazy, because he's kind of crazy anyway. It just kind of fit him that he would be Bullseye.

But to answer your question, I didn't have any green screen work.

Q: So that whole office sequence was real?

MCD: Yeah, that was a real office set. They decked it out really nice.

Q: You said Colin Farrell won you over. Were you not sure of him?

MCD: I knew Colin from "Tigerland," a movie that I had rented one evening. I saw that the guy is good and when I heard that he was going to be in our movie, that's the only movie that I knew about. So I didn't know too much about him.

But once we got on the set, and once we had our scene together, he just raised the bar so high. He made me come out of my shell. We were really going at it. It just made me feel good to see a guy with that much energy, crazy, over-the-top energy, to be able to hone it so well in this character. He is Bullseye. I can see nobody else playing that part, ever.

Q: It must be hard, as a non-drinker, to spend time with him.

MCD: You know what? I'm actually trying to get him to stop smoking, too! I don't know how well that's going, but I spent time with him off camera. He's a really crazy guy. He loves to have fun and he loves to live life to its fullest. He's doing something that he always wanted to do and I like to see people like that.

Q: Are you going to do a sequel?

MCD: We've been talking. I signed a two-picture deal so, you will see the Kingpin again.

Q: Was it difficult working with Colin's accent and foul language?

MCD: There was a take, as a matter of fact, they edited it, when I said, "Is there anything else," and he said, "Yeah, I want a fucking costume."

He really said that, so rewrote it so he said "I want a freakin' costume" or "a bloomin' costume" but Colin just put his little word in there and made it sound good to me, but you know how people are

Q: You said you talked to Colin about his partying. Does he listen?

MCD: He listens. He really does. I just tell him it's not good for him. I just say, "Man, you got a really long life and career ahead of you and I would hate to see it cut short by something that you're doing," and he says, "Yeah, you're right. I want to stop. I want to do this. I want to...," and I say, "Well you just have to take your time and just wean yourself off of it and it can be done. You'll feel a lot better once you get that out and start working out. You'll feel a lot better."

Q: No you don't.

Q: Did you give Colin any tips on shaving his head?

MCD: Actually, I looked at him and I thought he looked kind of cool with bald head. Actually he really did look cool with a bald head and I was just teasing him about...I said, "Yeah, now you're trying to look like me all of a sudden. You come on the set and you want a bald head like the Kingpin."

But no. I didn't give him any advice on how to shave.

Q: How disgusting were the cigars to a non-smoker?

MCD: They weren't disgusting at all, really. They were these herbal cigars. I didn't want real cigars. I tried to drive that point home simply because I didn't want to be addicted to anything later on in life and I told Mark, "If I get any type of cancer, I'm suing. I want you to know that right now!"

So they gave me the cigars about two months before I started filming, for me to practice with and everything. They really didn't smell or anything, so it was kind of nice.

Q: Has not smoking or drinking ever prevented you from getting a role?

[Duncan]MCD: You know what? Maybe not a role but I've missed out on a lot of big commercial campaigns. Beer ads will call and say, "Hey, I want him to be the spokesperson," but I don't drink beer so it just seems kind of goofy to do a beer ad and I hate beer. I've never drank beer so why would I sell myself short and say, "Yeah, I'll do that for ten million dollars," and I don't even do that. I probably missed out on a lot of money that way, but you know what? You get it on the rebound with something else, so that's the way I look at it.

Q: Do you have a toy of yourself yet?

MCD: For this movie? I don't know. Not yet. They should. But I had one from "Scorpion King" and "Planet of the Apes."

Q: Have you gone in to get imaged?

MCD: They did it before we even started. Once I had the weight up. We did it a week after I started filming. The crew came down there and did it one time so they probably won't have to do it again.

Q: Is it surreal to have you're own toy?

MCD: It's funny because my nephew's love it. They love Uncle Mike as Attar and the "Scorpion King" and they compare that to the Rock's toy and say my toy is bigger and stronger looking. So it's kind of cool when you look and you see your nephews telling you that they want you to send them a toy of yourself. It's like a fantasy really.

Q: Will there be a video game?

MCD: Yes, the video game is on the way also.

Q: Did you go in and do voice recording for that?

MCD: They have a "Spider-Man" cartoon coming out, in which the Kingpin is a part of, because he started off being the enemy of Spider-Man. I went in and voiced over a series of those. It's coming out this summer.

Q: Can you tell us about your movie, "George and the Dragon?"

MCD: Yes, I filmed that last year in Luxemburg. It was interesting over there. Luxemburg is a very dreary and rainy place. It rained every day and it was freezing cold. So I was over there with Val Kilmer and Patrick Swayze and we had a couple of big fight scenes in this old castle out in the moors or something like that. But it's a fun movie. It's a really fun movie.

Q: Who are you in that?

MCD: George is played by James Purefoy, a really good English actor over there. I'm his compadre. I'm his best friend, who just happens to be a black Irishman, if you can believe that. I'm his right-hand man.

The story just takes off with us separating and going our separate ways. He goes and does this and I go and try to save this country and he comes back and we join forces again. Then Patrick Swayze comes in there and then Val Kilmer is supposed to be El Diablo, who I have to fight.

It's really funny. Once you see it, it's really funny.

Q: Do you have full-on costumes in that one?

MCD: Yes. Yes. I had to learn how to ride a horse all over again, too, because we had to do a bit of riding in that.

Q: Isn't it like riding a bike: once you learn you never forget?

MCD: The thing is you have to be...when you get on a horse you have to let the horse know, "Hey, this is what we're gonna do."

When I started riding for "Planet of the Apes," my horse would just go and start eating grass and I would sit up there and he didn't care. I didn't know how to pull on the reigns.

So one day I just tapped him with a little leather thing and he perked up and looked back and I said, "Oh, OK." I said, "Now there's gonna be a different understanding with you and I from this point on!" So after that I hadn't had any problems with any horses.

Q: Did you have any suit envy with Ben?

MCD: Not at all. Not at all. In fact, he kind of scared me when I saw that.

When you see one of your best friends dressed up in leather, I mean, I don't care what part he's trying to portray or anything, it's funny to me.

I mean there were times when, in the office scene before we start our fight, and I say, "Daredevil," and he goes, "Kingpin," and he whips out his cane, there were times his cane just fell apart.

I said, "Man, I'm sitting over here and I'm trying to be serious and do this part," and I said, "I'm trying to wipe out the fact that you look goofy as hell in that little red outfit and then you break your cane on cue. You know, you lost all your little superhero points with me now. It's gonna be very hard for me to concentrate and not see Ben Affleck instead of Matt Murdock."

So it was kind of funny in that aspect.

Q: How many different Daredevil costumes were there?

MCD: You know, probably a lot with Ben's costume because, at times it got really hot. He had to change it a lot.

I told him, "You need a butt pad because Daredevil at least has a little butt back there and you have nothing. Get a little butt pad or just film you straight on man but from the side you really don't look like a superhero to me."

So I teased him a lot about that. The costumes, I guess, were really good. I didn't hear Jennifer Garner complaining at all and I know I wasn't complaining because I had on suits all day, so I really didn't mind that at all.

Q: Are you worried people will compare this movie to "Spider-Man?"

MCD: It's just like comparing somebody to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Once the bar is set, anything under that people say, "Oh, well it didn't do 115 million."

You hate that it's going to be compared to that, but it is going to be compared to that because that's another comic strip and "Daredevil" is something like "Spider-Man."

I don't think that we'll break box office records, like going 115 million. I'm not gonna say, "Yeah, we're going to top that." That's a really big record to top. I just hope we have a really nice opening weekend and I hope everyone really enjoys the movie.

Q: Most people never heard of Daredevil. Do you think that will hinder or help?

MCD: In some ways it'll hinder. In some ways it'll help. A lot of people thought "Daredevil" was a motorcycle gang or something, or a stunt guy and everything. They thought we were talking about Evel Kenievel. I was like, "No, no. It's a comic book." So I had to explain to a lot of people what "Daredevil" was.

On the flip side, maybe that interest will pique and people will say, "Oh, well I want to see that. I've heard about this guy. He's something like Spider-Man," and that could bring a different group of people in altogether.

So help and hurt at same time, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Q: Do you think Ben pulls off a superhero character?

MCD: He did. I joke about him a lot, but he was really tremendous.

Once I saw the movie, it was amazing to me: his fight scenes with Elektra. His fight scenes with Colin Farrell. Just everything he put into it. He worked a lot more days than I did so he really had to put a lot more energy into it than I did.

I didn't work half as much as he worked and he just pulled it off.

Q: You changed your body, which is a physical process, but he just put on a costume, which did that for him, so maybe he had it easier.

MCD: Well I'm glad you brought that up because I had let him know that too, that his suit was man-made muscles and fabric and everything and mine was the real deal. We were teasing each other about that.

He said, "I heard you had to get a lot of padding in your suit."

I said, "No. You can take my suit off right now! This is all me, brother! There's no padding nowhere!"

After that he kind of left it alone.

Q: Did you rib Ben about his tabloid stories with Jennifer Lopez or did you let it slide?

MCD: Oh, I tease him about it every day.

"I didn't know he had that much charisma and stuff. I just see him as a goofy guy to me."


- Duncan on Affleck's status as Sexiest Man Alive
Come on, you walk into a grocery store and there's one of your friends walking out of a pizza place with Jennifer Lopez. It's just funny to me that he's even going with her. I didn't know he had that much charisma and stuff. I just see him as a goofy guy to me.

They say he's the world's sexiest man alive. I'm like, "Man, you are not the sexiest man alive. There's no way in hell, of all the guys in the world, you are number one. That's just really a farce to me that you even got that title."

It's funny. I mean, come on. If you got a good friend and you walk in and you see him in a tabloid and it says, "Sexiest Man Alive," you'd be like, "You are not sexy at all. Not to me."

So to see that in a checkout line it just makes me laugh. Any time I see his name in a tabloid, I buy that tabloid.

Q: Is he inviting you to the wedding?

MCD: I told him that if he didn't invite me that I was gonna come anyway. I was gonna crash it.

Q: So you don't know when it is then.

MCD: Oh, I know some things but I'm not going to talk about it.

Q: Is he a changed man?

MCD: I think he is. I think that any time you commit yourself to a person you sort of go through a change. I think in life, you meet that one person where you say, "Hey, this is it. This is it for me. I'm going to sit down and settle with this one person."

She's a dynamic lady. He's a dynamic guy. So I don't foresee them having any problems.

Q: Sense of excitement. Does it become tougher when you realize filmmaking is much more of a business, where decisions are made based on the buck rather than the creative?

MCD: That's the hardest part. You want to do something but they may say, "We don't have this or we don't have that," but you know they got it. You turn it down and they come back and say, "Well we found a little bit more."

I don't understand that part of it because if I ever became a producer I would give a person what I think they're worth. I would give a person, knowing that I'm going to make one hundred million dollars in three months, and this person wants X amount of millions of dollars: give it to them.

We're going to make so much money in the states, and then it goes overseas and DVDs and all this. Whatever you give this person really is minute to me. But I guess people don't look like it like that and I'm not in that position. Maybe when I get in that position I'll be like, "Oh, this is how it works."

But, to me it's just common sense, if a person's going to make you a movie you give it to them and if you know that that person's going to be at work on time. He's not coming in drunk. He knows his lines. He's happy to be there I say you give that person that money.

That's the only thing about the business part that I don't like, that people aren't honest enough.

Q: You've been working a lot since "Green Mile." You don't seem to have a lot of downtime. Does that surprise you? Did you know it was going to be like this?

MCD: No. I had no idea. I thought that it was going to be that and it'd be kind of cool. Just that.

But as I look back at it I wish I had been more prepared for what was going to happen, but I don't think you can prepare anybody for the onslaught of media and interviews and sitting like this with microphones in your face. There's no way you can prepare a person for that.

I have to go back to my mother bringing me up right and teaching me things as a young man on how to talk and how to handle yourself in the public. All those things came into play when I got nominated and everything and I had to walk down that red carpet. I wasn't nervous. I was happy and running all around and everybody was like, "What is he doing?"

My publicist went crazy because I just veered off the red carpet and went over here and started slapping fives. That's exciting to me. I'm not going to be one of those guys who has his sun glasses and I'm cool and I'm pointing at you. That's just not me.

"I'm not a cool guy. I try to be really cool. Like you see I try to dress cool and I try to be cool with females but, really, I'm kind of goofy."


- Michael Clarke Duncan
Had I won, man I would have flew all over the shrine auditorium, just everywhere. I'd have been like, "I told you!" You know, just let it out. Don't try to be cool. I'm not a cool guy. I try to be really cool. Like you see I try to dress cool and I try to be cool with females but, really, I'm kind of goofy. So why not just act that way. Just be yourself.

Q: Did you play superheroes when you were younger?

MCD: Oh yeah! I used to tie a sheet around my neck and try to punch my sister, but she was older so that really didn't work. I would just go back and I would think about how I could...she was always the evil person to me. She was always the villain because she was bigger and stronger. So I used to always try to think of a way that I could combat that evilness.

And to this day I still haven't beaten her. I came close a couple of times, but I kept forgetting she's left-handed and I'd be ready for that right hand and she'd just go, "CRACK," and crack me right in my face.

So, I never got over that villain.

Q: What does this sister say when she sees you up on the screen?

MCD: My sister is like, she's the cruelest. She'll say, "Yeah, I saw your goofy poster in the theater," and I'm like, "Yeah? How did it look," and she's like, "Yeah, it looked alright. It's you. What do you want me to say?"

"Well, you know: Did I look cool? How'd the suit look?"

She's like, "It's just you. I know you from running around with your little trains on the floor and now you're just supposed to be this big celebrity. But you're my brother."

So that's how she sees me, just as her brother.

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to Queen Latifah since she's been nominated for a Golden Globe for "Chicago?"

MCD: No, and I'm going to give her a call because I really want to congratulate her. She is just a fun person to be around.

When I was working security on "Living Single" she was one of my favorite actors over there. She would always come and jump on my back and I had to carry her to her dressing room and she would say, "Yeah, I like a man that can pick me up," and I'd be struggling like, "OK, Queen. OK."

Actually she was so much fun to be around. Every day was something good with her and I was so happy to see her finally get that nomination.

Q: Did you see her movie?

MCD: Yes. I loved it.

Q: She's got nominations for Golden Globe and SAG awards. Any word on Oscar buzz?

MCD: Man. I don't know, because SAG awards are kind of different from Oscars and Golden Globes so you can get nominated for a Golden Globe and SAG and not get nominated for an Oscar. So you may have a movie out there that nobody's really got a big blow-up about and that could get nominated. So I'm not going to make any predictions right now.

I do hope Queen Latifah gets nominated. I really hope she gets nominated.

Q: What did you think of that gown that she was wearing in that number in "Chicago?"

MCD: That was pretty hot.

Q: You know the real working world. How important is that to you in building a character like Kingpin?

MCD: I think it's important because you know both sides of the rainbow. You not only know this side. The glamorous side. But I know what it's like to spend twelve hours in a ditch and in mud and digging ditches and putting drunk guys out of clubs and stopping fights and all that.

When I see guys working in construction or doing police work or security work, I respect that. When I go into a club now and a security guard tells me, "You can't stand around here," I don't ask him or say, "You know who I am?" I say, "OK, brother. Where can I stand," because I know what he's going through during the whole course of the evening.

So I have a newfound respect for people that get up at six in the morning and may not come home until six that evening and have to do that on a daily basis.

For me, I just did not like it. I just always wanted to be in Hollywood just kind of relaxing and chilling out like I'm doing now. I didn't want to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I'll tell you that much.

Q: Do you ever pinch yourself?

MCD: No, because if I do that I might wake up. It might be one of those "Matrix"-type dreams where all this is really just part of my little fantasy that I wanted. I don't ever pinch myself.

Q: How do you find mixing with all these celebrities. Is it easy?

MCD: No. For me, I'm still a fan. So when I go on the red carpet I still have a camera with me. Tom Hanks told me, "I wish you'd stop bringing that ugly camera." That's somebody that's been down the red carpet I don't know how many times.

But for me, it's exciting if I see Al Pacino. It's exciting if I see Dustin Hoffman or Jack Nicholson. I have to go take a picture with those guys. I frame it and put it up. That's history to me. That's Hollywood history to me.

I'm not going to be the type of person that's, "Oh, that's so-and-so and so-and-so." No. I'm going to run over there and get a picture. I got to get a picture with these people because that's my once-in-a-lifetime, maybe, meeting with these guys.

I was at the Broadcast Film Critics award, and there was Robin Williams. I had to go over and we both "cheesed" and we both took the picture together. That was great to me, that he let me take a picture with him.

I took a picture with Nicole Kidman. These are pictures that will be up on my wall and I can look back, hopefully fifty years from now and say, "Yeah, we were at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. Nicole Kidman was there."

This is fun to me. I'm not one of these guys who takes it for granted. I enjoy life every day and I never take anything for granted.

Q: When the fans approach you are you patient with them?

MCD: I try to give every fan an autograph if I can. Sometimes if I'm in like a grocery store I don't always do it because then you have a long line of people.

It's funny because kids come up to you and kids have the sweetest, innocent face and their parents know that. So they'll send the kid. And you're not going to turn them a kid, a little five year [old], "Can I have an autograph?"

How're you gonna say no? You just can't do it so when kids come up to me I'm like, "Oh. Come over here down this aisle by the cereal," and then I sign an autograph really quick and give it to them.

 
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