The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Duncan portrayed John Coffey, a condemned man with mystical powers in the 1999 prison fable that starred Tom Hanks.
Asked why, the Hall of Famer responded: “I didn’t want to play the down-South, African American guy during slavery.” The film, based on a Stephen King novel, is set in Depression-era Louisiana.
O’Neal, whose movie credits include “Kazaam” (1996) and “Steel” (1997), conceded the part would have been no slam dunk.
“Michael Clarke Duncan did an excellent job, so I think I made the right decision because he did way better than I could have done,” O’Neal said. “But I got offered that role.”