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Tom Hanks, Jay Leno, Holly Robinson Peete, Loretta Devine and Stevie Wonder were among those who helped celebrate the life of Michael Clarke Duncan during a nearly four-hour memorial service marked by heartfelt speeches, rousing gospel performances and photos of the always-smiling actor.
Mr. Hanks and Mr. Leno shared stories about “The Green Mile” star at Monday’s service. Miss Peete talked about meeting Mr. Duncan while he was still a celebrity bodyguard. Miss Devine spoke of how the actor would do anything for a laugh.
Mr. Wonder appeared via video, solemnly playing piano and singing the opening verses of his life-affirming song “As” for the man he called “a gentle giant.”
Mr. Duncan died Sept. 3 at 54, having never fully recovered from a July heart attack. His physician, who revealed Duncan used a pacemaker, was among the speakers at the service at Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks and Mortuaries in Los Angeles.
Backed by a gospel choir, singers Angie Stone, Kelly Price, Kenny Lattimore and Abraham McDonald lent their voices to the private funeral. State Assembly Member Mike Davis and Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson Jr. also attended, with the council declaring Monday as “Michael Clarke Duncan Day.”
Mr. Leno said he was touched by the actor’s positivity and lack of cynicism.
“Just to see such a pure heart and pure kindness, and to see it taken so early,” the comedian said, his voice cracking. “There are no sadder words than what might have been.”
“No one had a more positive spirit than Michael Clarke Duncan,” he said.
Mr. Darabont also read a letter from Stephen King, author of “The Green Mile.”
“No one has ever done a character I wrote more justice,” Mr. King wrote.