Shaquille O’Neal may be widely lauded as one of the finest basketball players to have ever graced the NBA, but it would be fair to say that his acting career has left a lot to be desired.
He’s fine when he’s either playing himself or making surprise cameos, but the dismal duo of Steel and Kazam couldn’t have made it any clearer that he just isn’t leading man material. Bearing that in mind, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise that Shaq turned down the role of John Coffey in Frank Darabont’s Stephen King adaptation The Green Mile, which ended up landing Michael Clarke Duncan an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
During an appearance on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, the 49 year-old admitted that while he was offered the part before Clarke Duncan, he doesn’t regret his decision in the slightest after seeing how the movie turned out.
“The Green Mile. That was my role, in Green Mile. I turned it down. I didn’t want to play the down-South African American guy during slavery, you know what I mean? I didn’t want to play that role. But the guy who played it did a wonderful job. He’s no longer with us, he passed away. Michael Clarke Duncan did an excellent job, so I think I made the right decision, because he did way better than I could’ve done. But I got offered that role.”
No offense to Shaq, but The Green Mile would have been a much different film had he ended up as John Coffey. Clarke Duncan brings emotion, vulnerability and pathos to a performance that tugs on the heartstrings, while we’ve never seen any evidence that the four-time NBA champion could even come close to delivering something similar.