Shaq Turned Down Playing John Coffey In ‘The Green Mile’

Shaquille O’Neal is known for doing a whole lot more than just playing basketball. He’s a rapper, has sponsorship deals with approximately 10,000,000 different things, has shown off his acting chops, and is an analyst on one of the most highly-regarded studio shows in television history. One can argue that few athletes have done as good a job as Shaq as taking their success in their sport and using it to do a host of other things.

Shaq has appeared in a number of different movies, perhaps most notably Kazaam and Blue Chips. But one role that he turned down had the potential to be bigger than anything else he’d done, and it also would have represented quite the change from his more comedic roles.

In a cameo on “The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast,” the big fella revealed at the 26:40 mark that he was offered the chance to play John Coffey in the 1999 film The Green Mile. While the late Michael Clarke Duncan took on the role and received universal acclaim for his performance, Shaq said he passed because he did not want to play Coffey.

“I didn’t want to play the down south African-American guy during slavery,” Shaq explained. “I didn’t want to play that role.”

Shaq was on the Lakers when the film was released and went on to win his first career championship a few months after it came out. Duncan’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and two decades later, Shaq made clear that he’s glad with how things turned out.

“The guy who played it did a wonderful job,” Shaq says, “He’s no longer with us, he passed away. Michael Clarke Duncan did an excellent job. So, think I made the right decision, because he did way better than I could have done. But I was offered that role.”