Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Michael was the son of a German sailor and an American Delaware Indian. Since childhood, he had always had a passion for filmmaking.
At the age of 10, using a Super-8 camera, Michael directed his first short film, titled THE TIRE. He continued to make short films until his late teens.
At the age of 9, Michael’s mother enrolled him in an Aikido class. A bully at the school would break Michael’s spirit and he would drop out. When he was 13, Michael soon realized the spiritual aspects of the martial arts and began training in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu under Master Y.C. Chiang.
Michael would dabble in other forms of martial arts from Tang Soo Do to Muay Thai. At 16, he spent nearly a decade in karate competitions until his mid-twenties, when he headed for California.
In 1991, Michael was approached by producer Joseph Merhi, who at the time, hit success with his PM Entertainment company with the film RING OF FIRE, starring the just-retired kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson. Worth signed a three-picture deal with PM Entertainment.
Michael got his first major film role in the film FINAL IMPACT, in which he starred opposite Lorenzo Lamas as a young kickboxer who trains under Lamas’ former champion character. Worth got to showcase his kickboxing skills in the film and for a stright-to-video film, it did quite interesting. Michael completed his run with PM with the films STREET CRIMES (1992) and TO BE THE BEST (1992).
In 1993, Michael nailed a lead role in a new television series titled ACAPULCO H.E.A.T. The series revolved around a group of sexy agents operating out of Mexico. People can think of it as a clean version of the Andy Sidaris series of action films that starred many Playboy playmates. Worth played Tommy, a martial arts expert who is a member of the H.E.A.T. team. The series lasted two seasons in syndication.
In 1994, Michael auditioned for the role of Dick Grayson, or Robin, in the third installment of the famous BATMAN series, BATMAN FOREVER. When Michael was first runner-up to bigger star Chris O’Donnell, Michael would end up becoming O’Donnell’s stunt double, taking part in an intricate fight sequence that pitted Robin against an unrecognizable Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who played a skull-faced gang leader. Robin was doubled by both Worth and former Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord in the fight scene.
After making the film FISTS OF IRON in 1995, Michael took some time off and appeared in numerous television series. He would make appearances in two films in 1999, THE CONTRACT and THE STORYTELLERS.
In 2001, Michael was invited by action film director Isaac Florentine to headline the cast of the sequel U.S. SEALS II: THE ULTIMATE FORCE. With a cast of martial arts champions and stunt experts, the film would feature Hong Kong-style choreography by former Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Andy Cheng. The film gained respect within martial arts film fans everywhere.
In 2004, Michael made his directorial debut with the film KILLING CUPID. It is described as a love story with a vengeance-styled theme. Worth appeared in the film and wrote the screenplay as well. That same year, Michael wrote the martial arts western GHOST ROCK, opposite Gary Busey and Jeff Fahey. Michael has been known to take a break from martial arts films, delving into horror films like DEMON HUNTER (2005) as well as making his second directorial film, the drama GOD’S EARS (2007).
In a short amount of time, Worth has shown his versatility as of late when it comes to filmmaking, but diehard martial arts films fans will always remember him as a young martial artist who stood up to the much bigger opponents in the action movies of the 90’s.
Mr Worth you were trained in Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee’s student, master Dan Inosanto. Did you ever consider teaching martial arts yourself?
After studying with Dan, Larry (Hartsell) and Jerry Poteet for a while I did begin teaching for awhile. Jerry had certified me as an Assistant Instructor under him and found the teaching help me to continue to improve. It was also a nice way to pass on the instruction to others and kept food on my table at the time.
One of the most well known of your movies is FISTS OF IRON, which you did with Matthias Hues, Sam Jones and Eric Lee. Tell a little about working on this film, please…
I had just finished the first season of Acapulco HEAT and the director (Richard Munchkin) I had known from working with PM. He asked me to do this little film he was directing and though I was not keen on doing another “fighter in the ring” movie, I really enjoyed the relationship between Sam Jones, Eric Lee and my character so decided to hop on.
Matthias was great to work with. I thought when he arrived he was going to be this big, arrogant guy after seeing him in all these films and he turned out to be the coolest guy on the set. We had a great time pulling the fight together. It was a very limited time, we shot the whole fight in one day, so could have been better certainly, but considering what we were up against, worked out okay.
You worked with the legendary John Saxon twice, first on God’s Ears, and the on War Wolves. You directed both, so how was it like working with him? Did you get along well?
John is one of those legends in the business. He comes out of a time, the 1950s, when most of our great stars were all forming their careers. He was blessed to have been involved with some of the giants like Brando, Eastwood and of course Bruce Lee (his character in God’s Ears is named “Lee). I am very happy to have given him a role that he was destined to play in God’s Ears. He has won several Best Supporting Actor Awards this year from the role. His professionalism and knowledge of the craft is inspiring to watch. As for getting along, I’d be happy to work with him in everything I do from now on.
Which of your movies you enjoyed working on the most? Both as an actor and as a director.
Well, God’s Ears is certainly the peak of the craft and working experience for me at this point. It was shot in 10 days and made for very little money but has surpassed my expectations on the reception it has gotten over the last year at all the film festivals. I just returned from Japan where it screened at Skip City International Film Festival, and here I was in a country I thought would not even relate to the film and they pulled more meaning from it than anywhere else. It is certainly the way I would like to continue to work, the ability to create the way I was allowed to on that film.
On our film Ghost Rock, which was my first produced screenplay, it was one of the most fun shoots we ever had. Maybe because very few of us knew what we were doing so went into it with these more “child-like” hearts and just enjoyed the experience out there doing a western. The screenplay was changed too much and the film edited too much to make the final product what I had hoped it would be, but the filming with that giant cast like Busey, Fahey, Jenya Lano, Christa Sauls, director Dustin Rikert, Adrienne Barbeau and everyone else was just an awesome and enlightening experience.
Any plans for director Michael Worth for making a martial arts film in the future?
Well, I have a couple things I am currently working on including writing an action film with Dolph Lundgren. A larger project, a drama, I am planning with David Mamet as well. As for a martial arts film, there are a few ideas that have been sitting on the table so don’t be surprised if one of the came comes to life by next year.
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