Michael Joseph Stephen Dudikoff Jr. (born October 8, 1954) is an American actor and martial artist known for lead roles in action films such as American Ninja series (1985–1990), Avenging Force (1986), Platoon Leader (1988), River of Death (1989), Soldier Boyz (1996), Bounty Hunters (1996), Bounty Hunters 2: Hardball (1997), and many more.
Dudikoff in 2013
Michael Joseph Stephen Dudikoff Jr.
October 8, 1954
|Occupation||Actor, Martial artist|
|Years active||1978–2004, 2013–present|
|Spouse(s)||Belle Dudikoff (m. 2004)|
Dudikoff's father, Michael Joseph Stephen Sr., was Eastern Orthodox Christian. Born in New York to Russian immigrants Mary Bogdanova and John Dudikoff, Michael Sr. served in the Army before marrying Dudikoff's mother: Rita T. Girardin, a French-Canadian piano-player from Quebec. The couple moved to California and had five children; the fourth, Michael Jr., was diagnosed with dyslexia.
Mid 1970s to 1985: Modeling and early rolesEdit
To pay for his education, he worked at a rehabilitation center for abused youth called Cedar House and waited tables at Beachbum Burt's in Redondo Beach, California. He was eventually approached to do some modelling, and did a catwalk at a shopping mall.
During lunch one day, Dudikoff served Max Evans – a fashion editor with Esquire magazine, who had come in with some models. Evans asked Dudikoff to walk in a Newport Beach fashion show, and his mother encouraged him to try it out.
After a couple of successful runways, Dudikoff retained an agent at the Mary Webb Davis Agency in Los Angeles. Dudikoff soon entered the high fashion world and counted Calvin Klein and GQ among his clients. He moved quickly to international print modeling and traveled between New York, Los Angeles, and Milan by his late 20s.
His first television role took place after a meeting with theatrical agent Sid Craig. He went for some readings, and in 1978 he landed a supporting role in one episode of the hit TV show Dallas, and shortly after the part as Joanie's first boyfriend in the American sitcom Happy Days. Gary Nardino, who was the president of Paramount Studio at the time, happened to be sitting in the audience while they were filming. Nardino put a holding contract on Dudikoff so that he could work the lot.
Early 1980s to 1985: Subsequent roles and breakthroughEdit
In the early 80s, Dudikoff was cast in supporting roles or seen in the background of such films such as, The Black Marble, Bloody Birthday, The Best Little Girl in the World, Neil Simon's I Ought to Be in Pictures, Making Love, Tron, Uncommon Valor and one episode of Gimme a Break!.
During that time, he was cast alongside Brian Dennehy and Katherine Saltzberg to play one of the leads in the sitcom Star of the Family, and got the part of Huckleberry Finn in a Columbia Pictures movie-of-the-week called Sawyer & Finn directed by Peter H. Hunt.
In 1985, The Cannon Group, an independent film company with a streak of successful action films, were looking to produce an action film starring Chuck Norris called American Ninja (1985), which Norris turned down. Shortly after, Cannon went on a worldwide search to find who would play Private Joe Armstrong the American ninja. Over 400 candidates went on to audition for the part. Producer and Owner of Cannon Menahem Golan and director Sam Firstenberg thought he was the obvious choice for the part. Golan even went on to say that he would be the next James Dean. It was a surprise for Dudikoff, who at the time was mostly known for supporting roles in comedies. It was Dudikoff's first collaboration with actor Steve James (1952–1993) who was hired to play the partner of the American ninja, a role he maintained for the first three installments. On a $1 million budget it went on to gross over $10 million domestically in the US and did extremely well in foreign markets. This success would establish the start of the American Ninja film franchise, with Dudikoff becoming a regular action star for The Cannon Group alongside Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, Sho Kosugi, and later on Jean-Claude Van Damme. For the rest of the 1980s, Dudikoff would continue to star in Cannon Group action film projects.
That same year, he and John Stockwell were cast as co-leads in the cult post-apocalyptic science fiction comedy Radioactive Dreams, which was awarded the Golden Raven at the 5th Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, and nominated for best film at the Italian film and literature festival MystFest.
1986 to mid-2000s: Action film starEdit
In 1986, he was cast as Lt. Rudy Bodford in the critically acclaimed mini-series North and South, Book II, starring Patrick Swayze. It went on to receive three nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards.
Also in 1986, he reunited with director Sam Firstenberg and starred in the sequel American Ninja 2: The Confrontation. In this installment, Dudikoff and James are ordered to discover why marines have been going missing from their posts at the U.S. Embassy. The two discover The Lion (Gary Conway) has been kidnapping the missing marines and having them brainwashed to join his army of assassins. The film was less successful than the predecessor, grossing $4 million domestically in the U.S.
That same year, Dudikoff starred in Avenging Force (1986), his last film with Steve James, directed by Sam Firstenberg. The screenplay was written by James Booth, who co-starred in the film. The film is about retired secret service agent Captain Matt Hunter (Dudikoff) who lives with his sister Sarah and their grandfather. They drive to New Orleans to meet Matt's old military comrade and local politician Larry Richards (James), who is now running for U.S. Senate. At dinner, Larry hesitantly mentions threats made against his life during the election cycle, which he dismisses as harmless. Later that day, Larry, Matt and their families ride in Larry's float in the Mardi Gras parade. Disguised as revelers, assassins open fire on Larry's float, killing his eldest son. Matt and Larry take down the attackers, but Matt loses the last assassin in charge in the crowd. He calls in a favor to his old boss, Admiral Brown (Booth), and learns the perpetrators are members of an organization that he confronts throughout the film.
His Vietnam War action film Platoon Leader (1988) was directed by Aaron Norris. The film is about a newly commissioned infantry lieutenant (Dudikoff) who arrives in Vietnam to take over his first platoon. He finds he has to prove himself and earn the trust of the enlisted men if he is to lead them.
He starred in Steve Carver's River of Death (1989), co-starring Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, Herbert Lom, and L. Q. Jones. The story is set in the nightmarish last days of the Third Reich, during which a psychotic Nazi scientist (Vaughn) escapes to the impenetrable jungles of the Amazon. Years later, a mysterious incurable disease breaks out among the natives and adventurer John Hamilton (Dudikoff) is hired to lead investigators on a search for the cause. Braving bloodthirsty river pirates, hostile native tribes and headhunting cannibals, Hamilton, guides a group of explorers up the deadly Rio del Morte to the fabled lost Inca city.
In 1989, Dudikoff turned down American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt because he didn't want to get type cast in martial-arts movies and didn't want to go back to South Africa as he was firmly against the Apartheid movement and government in that country. Martial-arts expert David Bradley was hired to play a new character for the lead in the third installment.
In the early 1990s, Dudikoff continued making action films with The Cannon Group. His first release of that decade was the thriller Midnight Ride (1990), co-starring Mark Hamill and Robert Mitchum. Afterwards, he returned to the American Ninja franchise for the fourth installment American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990) where Private Joe Armstrong teams up with the character played by David Bradley. This would be the last sequel Dudikoff appeared in. Three years later, Bradley starred in the final movie of the series, American Ninja 5 (1993).
In 1992, he starred as father figure alongside a young Stephen Dorff in Rescue Me, a coming-of-age action-adventure comedy directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman. The movie co-stars Ami Dolenz, Peter DeLuise, and William Lucking. Daniel's high school crush (Dolenz) is kidnapped. Daniel (Dorff) and Frazier (Dudikoff) go after her kidnappers.
The following year, he was cast in the lead role in the action TV series Cobra produced by Stephen J. Cannell, co-starring Allison Hossack and James Tolkan. The hour-long show ran for 22 episodes from 1993–1994.
In 1994, he did his final film with The Cannon Group, which was going bankrupt, called Chain of Command directed by David Worth. The film is about anti-terrorist operative Merrill Ross (Dudikoff) who gets embroiled in a deadly international conflict. Ross tries to thwart a plot to seize control of Qumir and its oil fields. Tailed by agents and a death squad, Ross dodges bullets and barely survives an oil depot blast as he tries to find out who's behind the mercenary scheme.
In 1996, he continued making fast-paced action films and released Bounty Hunters (1996) co-starring Lisa Howard, Moving Target with Billy Dee Williams, and Crash Dive (1996) alongside Frederic Forrest.
The following year, he appeared in the air hijack picture Strategic Command with supporting cast Richard Norton, Paul Winfield, Bryan Cranston and Stephen Quadros. The Bounty Hunters sequel Bounty Hunters 2: Hardball, and his only shoot-em-up western The Shooter by Fred Olen Ray were also released in 1997. The same year, the video game adaption of his film Soldier Boyz was released for Microsoft Windows 95.
He returned to comedy with a supporting role in the movie Ringmaster (1998) starring Jerry Springer. That same year he was the lead in four other action releases, Black Thunder (1998) with Richard Norton, Freedom Strike (1998) with Tone Lōc, Musketeers Forever (1998) with Lee Majors, and Counter Measures (1998) a sequel to Crash Dive directed by Fred Olen Ray.
In 1999, he played in the Sidney J. Furie suspense drama In Her Defense, with Marlee Matlin, the sci-fi action film Fugitive Mind by Fred Olen Ray with Heather Langenkamp and the action feature The Silencer.
In 2002, he played the main villain in the Treat Williams action vehicle Gale Force. It co-starred Curtis Armstrong, Susan Walters, Tim Thomerson, Marcia Strassman, and many more. The film was nominated in four categories at DVD Exclusive Awards.
The year 2002 also marked his last projects with longtime collaborators before going on a hiatus. This includes director Sam Firstenberg in the thriller Quicksand, and Fred Olen Ray sci-fi adventure film Stranded.
After these efforts, Michael Dudikoff felt he needed a break and started working in real estate, specializing in buying old homes to refurbish them. In 2004, he married Belle Dudikoff.
2013 to present day: Current worksEdit
In 2014, he was interviewed for The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films and Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, both highly publicized dueling documentaries about The Cannon Group.
In 2018, he played the main villain in Fury of the Fist and the Golden Fleece, alongside Sean Stone, Danny Trejo, Taimak, Michael Winslow, Jason London, Bill Goldberg, Cynthia Rothrock, Ernie Reyes Jr., Richard Grieco, Victor Ortiz, and many more.
Dudikoff has been married to Belle since 2004. They have two children: twins lyzel and anderi.
Martial arts and fitnessEdit
Dudikoff had no martial arts training before making the first American Ninja movie, but he was already very athletic. Fight choreographer Mike Stone, an accomplished martial arts expert, assured the producers that Dudikoff would pick up the moves.
He since trained in karate, aikido, judo and in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He began his training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Rorion Gracie and stays connected with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighting circuit, including Rigan Machado, an eighth degree red and black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and former world champion.
In a 2012 Q&A, Dudikoff said that he doesn't lift weights, but is a swimmer and does isometric and dance exercises.
Dudikoff, due to his action film resume, is often rumored to take part in The Expendables film series. In a 2012 interview, he suggested there had been talk of him participating in the franchise and that he would be happy with any outcome, noting: "everything always works out for the right reasons." In that same interview, he also hinted at a possible sequel to American Ninja and Avenging Force.
|1980||The Black Marble||Millie's Houseboy|
|1982||Making Love||Young Man in Bar #2|
|I Ought to Be in Pictures||Boy on bus|
|Tron||Conscript #2||as Michael J. Dudikoff II|
|1983||Uncommon Valor||Blaster's assistant|
|1985||Radioactive Dreams||Marlowe Hammer|
|American Ninja||Pvt. Joe Armstrong|
|1986||Avenging Force||Capt. Matt Hunter|
|1987||American Ninja 2: The Confrontation||Sgt. Joe Armstrong|
|1988||Platoon Leader||Lt. Jeff Knight|
|1989||River of Death||John Hamilton|
|American Ninja 4: The Annihilation||Joe Armstrong|
|1992||The Human Shield||Doug Matthews|
|1992||Rescue Me||Daniel 'Mac' MacDonald|
|1994||Chain of Command||Merrill Ross|
|1996||Bounty Hunters||Jersey Bellini||Direct-to-video|
|Strategic Command||Dr. Rick Harding|
|Crash Dive||James Carter||Direct-to-video|
|Bounty Hunters 2: Hardball||Jersey Bellini||Direct-to-video|
|The Shooter||Michael Atherton|
|1998||Freedom Strike||Tom Dickson|
|Counter Measures||Capt. Jake Fuller||Direct-to-video|
|1999||In Her Defense||Andrew Garfield|
|Fugitive Mind||Robert Dean||Direct-to-video|
|2000||The Silencer||Quinn Simmons|
His last film before a ten-year hiatus
|2015||Navy Seals vs. Zombies||Commander Sheer|
|The Bouncer||Samuel James|
|2018||Fury of the Fist and the Golden Fleece||Superboss|
|1978||Dallas||Joe Newcomb||1 Episode|
|1979||Out of the Blue||Lenny||1 Episode|
|1979-1980||Happy Days||Jason / Jim||2 Episodes|
|1982||Star of the Family||Douggie Krebs||10 Episodes|
|1983||Gimme a Break!||Greg Hartman||1 Episodes|
|1986||North and South, Book II||Lt. Rudy Bodford||6 Episodes|
|1991||The Woman Who Sinned||Evan Ganns||TV Movie|
|1994||Historias de la puta mili||Special Appearance||1 Episodes|
|1993–1994||Cobra||Robert "Scandal" Jackson, Jr.||22 Episodes|
|2013||Zombie Break Room||Tank Dempsey||also executive producer|
|2019||Green Valley||Uncle Rik|
|1997||Soldier Boyz||Toliver||Voice role|
|2018||B-Team||General Dudikoff||Voice role|
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- "Tank Dempsey shows love to his favorite commentators – ZBR". Youtube.
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