Michael was born February 12, 1950 in Saint Mary’s Hospital Toronto Canada … the first born child of Patricia June Passmore/Ironside and Robert Walter Ironside … his loving parents, June and Bob. He was later followed by four more, two of each – Winnifred, William, Robert and Beverly. As of this writing his parents are both deceased and missed deeply on a daily basis and his siblings are all alive, robust and cherished beyond words.
Legally named Frederick Reginald at birth, the moniker never really stuck and by the time the newborn and his Mom were bathed, blessed and bundled off home from the hospital their extended family and friends in the neighborhood were calling the little guy … Mike. When later canvassed as to why the name “Mike”, the common consensus from all that were present was “just didn’t look like a Fred … more like a Mike”.
An insatiable reader Mike would tend toward flights of fantasy rather than sports. While most were on the street shooting pucks or chasing balls, Mike would more often than not be racing about with a broom handle sword or dish towel mask as, Robin of Locksley, Horatio Hornblower, The Black Rose’s Walter of Gurnie or anyone of a multitude of characters he’d collected from books.
At twelve years of age, in a precocious burst of enthusiasm he tackled writing an autobiographic novel which drew the attention of a young student teacher Judy Millen. Under her tutelage he adapted a couple of the chapters into a one act play titled “The Shelter”. The play won a National Collegiate play writing award and as part of it’s prize, was produced and staged at the Factory Lab Theater.
A grade school graduate and product of The Toronto Board of Education, Mike went on to Attend The Ontario College of Art (now the OCAD) where in his fourth year he and fellow students went against the non linear convention of the time and wrote, acted and shot “Down Where the Lights Are” a 72 min. dramatic movie on super eight film with crystal sync sound. After a Film Festival Screening the movie was accurately reviewed as “a technically flawed, robust attempt at cinematic story telling”. However, in spite of it’s short comings, the movie attracted the attention of Beryl Fox at The National Film Board of Canada and Mike was invited to join an on going acting/writing/directing workshop of young Canadian professionals who were being schooled in their craft by the Award Winning Actors Studio Alumni Janine Manatis. It was here, under the shrewd intuitive eye of Manatis that Mike started his journey of learning, unlearning and relearning his craft.
Janine Manatis also cast Mike in his first role of any note, playing Jimmy Porter in a television production of John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger”. The broadcast attracted talent agent Lawrie Rotenberg whose subsequent representation jump started Mike’s acting career.
In the seventies, while signing contracts at the ACTRA union office in Toronto, his daughter Adrienne, no more than 6 at the time, voiced the astute observation that Mike was a hockey player’s name not an actor’s name and further added that if he wanted to succeed going forward, Michael was the preferred way to go. Acutely aware of his young daughter’s genius for all things media, he immediately re-registered his name and upon leaving the union office that afternoon actor Michael Ironside saw the light of day for the very first time.
In 1981/82 after the box office success of David Cronenberg’s “Scanners” and Jean Claude Lord’s “Visiting Hours”, Michael, heeding the advice of a local industry crony who stated “if you want to make a living, you’ve got to go where the living’s being made” packed up, left Toronto and relocated to Los Angeles.
“V” the NBC mini series and subsequent series soon followed the move to LA and parts in Richard Pryor’s semi autobiographical “Jo Jo Dancer Your Life Is Calling” and Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” came soon after.
With work in over a hundred and fifty productions to date … “Total Recall” to “Terminator:Salvation”, “ER” to “Smallville” and the ongoing Ubisoft’s “Splinter Cell : Sam Fisher” franchise, Michael is what is known in the entertainment industry as a “working actor”.
Personally he knows with all his being that he’s blessed with a loving family, solid friends and good health.