Hi, I'm Michael Ironside, Finlay's and Adrienne's father. I'm also an actor. I've been in over 200 features over the years. My latest film is Extraterrestrial, a scifi/action thriller with horror elements. I think I represent all of the misplaced parents and adults in the film.

I'm here in NYC at reddit HQ for New York Comic-Con for the Extraterrestrial panel this evening at 5 PM at the Javitz Center. Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, AMA.

Proof: https://twitter.com/reddit_AMA/status/520251299745775616


edit: I've never done this before. I like the immediacy of it. I like the opportunity to be honest and thorough. I'll probably do it again. Thanks for showing up and asking me questions that are diverse and interesting.

Comments: 833 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

niko838751 karma

Hello, Mr. Ironside! I have to say that I liked your voice work as Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell series. How do you feel about Ubisoft's decision to not use you in the newest game? Also, any stories about your work on the games?

MichaelIronside1880 karma

I think it's a great idea for Ubisoft. They've gone to motion capture, and this spring I will be 65 years old. I don't think anyone wants to pay money seeing a 65 year old Sam Fisher bounce around on set, killing and stumbling while he kills people. I wish them all the luck. I hope that franchise has a long and storied future.

I have to confess I'm not a gamer. And when they sent me the contract for the very first game, it was quite lucrative, and I said "absolutely, I will do this." I thought it was going to be like PONG, and I would just have to introduce it.

My wife, actually, went out and bought a brand new SUV with some of the money.

When I got the script, it was very stiff, very inflexible, and very blood and violent.

And I didn't want to do it. And told them I was going to give them back their money. They asked me what would it take to keep me on the project, and i said we would have to change the character, and give him some type of humanity. To their credit, they sat me down with the game creators, and we came up with the present Sam Fisher, who had an empathy and was not just a 2 dimensional killing machine. And we got as much humanity, I think that that format will allow.

And my wife didn't have to give back her SUV.

ALso, what happened is, when you're doing games, usually it's one person in a booth doing their work, creating their character, and then the next person goes in, you usually never get to work or meet anybody. On the first 2 games, we brought the cast in, and we all did it together, so we had a sense of humanity. That was one of my stipulations.

I said "Working is like making love, if i do it by myself, it's just masturbation. I'd rather have the other cast around." And I think the proof is in the pudding, the game has had a pretty good set of legs on it.

crazedhatter661 karma

This answer makes you my hero. Seriously... you GET it and that is rare enough. Thank you for helping Ubi make good decisions, lord knows they need the help!

MichaelIronside935 karma

Ubisoft should be given a bit of a hat's off to start with. When Splinter Cell was created, it was breaking new ground, and their allowing me to create the character and renovate the script for the game is quite phenomenal, and in a paranoid, financially-tight market, I have to share the credit with Ubisoft and the five owners. It was quite brave what they did in taking those risks.

shivan21351 karma

How do you remember working with Arnold? Do you have any good story?

MichaelIronside1080 karma

One of my favorite memories of Arnold at the studios in Mexico City is while shooting, my sister back in Canada had had a cancerous growth in her abdomen that had choked off her intestines, and she was in intensive care after it was removed, and was very very fragile, her health was very fragile. And I had been calling her on a daily basis to see how she was doing, because I"m the oldest of 5, she's the second oldest, and she's my oldest and dearest friend. And Arnold noticed me calling every day at lunch and he said "Who is it you're calling?'

And I told him about my sister, and he said "C'mon, let's go to my trailer."

And he had one of these conference phones set up, and he called my sister, and we talked to my sister, in Peterborough, Ontario, for an hour.

My sister recovered. And that's just the kind of guy Arnold is.

MichaelIronside997 karma

He went through a whole diet thing with her. He told her the healthiest diet she should be on, for her surgery recovery, and he had a wealth of knowledge what was possibly affecting the tumor, and different chemicals and stuff.

And I gotta honestly say - I'm not trying to pump him up - but he changed the course of my sister's recovery. She seemed lighter, and had more of a sense of humor after that. Felt less isolated. Less insulated. Isolated and insulated, you know?

He called her a couple more times on the phone. He called 2 or 3 more times to check on her.

MichaelIronside868 karma

He's a good guy, he really is a good guy.

crapusername47263 karma

Do you have any interesting stories, anecdotes or memories you'd like to share from your time working on Scanners with David Cronenberg?

MichaelIronside869 karma

I have a lot of 'em.

One in particular: David uses the same crew people and the same creative people, he has a small or extended family, creative family. SO a lot of people had been in the trenches with David before when we did Scanners. I was the newbie.

And David is a very straight, very middle class, average looking person with glasses and an inappropriate haircut and inappropriate shirt. And he came on set one day and said: "I had a dream last night."

And I said "What was it about?"

And I noticed people started to walk away until i was the only one standing there. And he said "I had a dream last night, and my POV was of the ground, and it was a sandy kind of ground, and then vomit started to land on the sandy ground, and it was quite a lot of vomit, and then this wind started to come up and cover the vomit in sand and dust, and the vomit kept coming, and coming..."

He says "And then I felt safe, and satisfied, and relaxed again. And then another wind came, and when the sand had blown away, the vomit had formed into a shape of my naked body, laying on the ground."

He said "I found that very interesting."

I nodded and said "Yeah, that's really, really interesting."

Thankfully we were called to set and had to go shoot a scene. 3 days later, David was standing on set, and he said "I had a dream last night..." and one of my costars said "Really, what did you dream?"

And I walked away with everybody else, and left that person standing there to hear.

And that's a true fucking story.

Ed_Sullivision154 karma

I'm not at all surprised that he would do something like that.

Any other good Cronenberg stories? Sorry, I'm a big fan of his and this is a crazy coincidence that you're doing an AMA because I was just watching Scanners last night.

MichaelIronside545 karma

Cronenberg stories...

The flashback sequence in Scanners where Steven Lax's character is shown footage of my character in the interrogation room, the day we shot the footage for the interrogation room, the actor who was to play the doctor talking to me in that scene got lost. So we shot it as if it was being viewed through a window, and the continuity lady (who usually looks after the continuity of the script) put on a white coat, sat with her back to the camera, and was basically feeding the character's lines to me. And we shot it as a one-er, one shot. And we didn't know how to end it, so I told David not to worry about it, and I told her when I got angry, to leave the room, because i was going to throw something. And we pretty well improv'd that scene, and other than one minor edit they shot in second unit, it stands to this day. It's not the way it was scripted, it's the way we ended up shooting. And the bandage, the character has tried to drill a hole in his head to let the pressure out, and when they put the bandaid on my head, I said "It doesn't look right, it makes the character look like a fish." And David agreed.

And I asked "Do you mind if I do something?" and he said "Go ahead" and i took a felt pen and drew an eye on the bandage. And David said "What?" and I said "I'll make something up." We shot it in one take, and the dialogue that came out of my mouth, about that being an eye to scare people away from the door in my head, was kinda cool.

PastelFlamingo150263 karma

Can you make a recording of yourself reading the dictionary, so that we can have your brushed steel voice for posterity? Also, I want to screw with future historians, and make them think they're a bunch of pussies compared to us.

P.S. Loved you in Splinter Cell

MichaelIronside814 karma

I may have a wonderful voice, that may be able to command a certain amount of authority and inflict a certain amount of discomfort in unknowing people, but I live in a house with my two daughters and my wife and I have to lineup to use the bathroom. I get no respect.

MichaelIronside977 karma

I came in once, many years ago when my oldest daughter was dating, and there was a fellow sitting on our couch with his feet up on the coffee table. And I walked up behind him, and said "Do you live here?"

And he said "No sir."

And I said "Do you plan on living here?"*

And he said "No sir."

And I said "Well, get your feet off my coffee table, get your ass off my couch, and go wait outside."

He left.

MichaelIronside652 karma

My daughter at the time was very upset. But realized the guy was a dork about 6 months later, and came in and said "If that got rid of him, then he wasn't worth having a relationship with."

That's absolutely true!

justanothershell259 karma


MichaelIronside778 karma

Oh, Christian?

Done 2 films with him. Absolutely love him. Well, not absolutely as being naked and physical, but absolutely love his craft, the way he prepares for work, and the respect he has for what we do as actors.

I remember on The Machinist, I came to work one day, and we were shooting in Barcelona, Spain, and our trailers were these little spanish 2-wheeled cabanas that were sparked in front of this actual working machine shop.

And I heard "pssst...Michae!" from behind one of the Cabanas.

And I went over, and it was Chris. And he said "Can you look at this?"

And he turned and dropped his overalls, which he was naked under. And he had lost an INCREDIBLE amount of weight for the character. And he said "Michael, there's something wrong with my ass, can you have a look?"

And the muscles in his ass had literally dropped out of the sockets of his hips. The dignity of the muscles, his ass had literally dropped out of the hips and thigh bones.

And I said "Hey Chris, your ass has dropped." And he said" What do you mean?"

And I said "You've stopped losing body fat, and now you're actually losing elasticity of muscles" - I forget the exact medical term for it, but I said "You've gone beyond body fat, and now you're into actual muscle tissue and things are being affected."

And he turned - I wasn't sure how he was going to react - and he turned, and said "Cool."

And I said to him "Cool?"

he said "Yeah, I made weight today."

And what he meant was that when he writer wrote the script, the writer was 5 foot six and he put his own weights in, so he used his own weights for somebody who would be losing weight. So Chris made the weight of either 137 or 127 - so he said "Don't change the weights in the script, I want to see if I can make them."

And that was the day they shot the scene with him and the love interest, Jen Lee - it's the scene where he's in the bathroom and she says "are you losing weight" and he turns and looks like a skeleton. So the weights he puts on the wall, that is his ACTUAL weight. He wanted to make the weights that the original writer put in, in relation to himself. And Christian is 6 foot, 2 inches. And he did.

He started putting on weight again after that day.

MichaelIronside706 karma

Just to be responsible - Christian had made the weights in the script, and from that day forward, that was the day they were filming the most emaciated scene and from that point forward, he slowly started putting his weight on.

When I saw him again at Sundance 6 months later, he had put on almost 60 pounds of muscle to get ready for Batman. He walked in and looked like a linebacker.

powergauge246 karma

Hello Mr. Ironside. I have fond memories of you as the villain in Highlander 2. Do you have any good stories from its production?

MichaelIronside799 karma

I've got so many...

There's a scene in the movie where my character comes to earth, and literally lands by going through the city streets and through the roof of a subway car, and lands on the subway. My stunt double had never been anywhere in the world where cocaine was so cheap.

And he got absolutely hammered out of his mind for a week, and ended up running through the streets naked in Buenos Aires, and was arrested the morning of that sequence.

So I had to do the stunt, because we had nobody in that part of the world who looked anything like me.

So I had to hang on the roof of the subway car, and land on the floor, without any pads, and it was about a 12 foot drop, straight down, and in costume as the character. In the actual movie, you'll see me slowly get up, and the character checks both his knees as he's standing, he checks his back, his arms, and then throws his head back with a joyous scream knowing that he hadn't broken anything.

That was not acting. That was me. Because i realized I had done it, and I didn't have to do it again!

From that moment, we just walked forward with the scene. It's one of my favorite sequences of that film, because it's where real life and acting come together in such a joyous moment, and it's captured.

MichaelIronside876 karma

I had been shooting on Highlander 2 for two months of the 6 month shoot in Buenos Aires when Sean Connery arrived.

And I was actually on the city set we had built, down on the docks, helping the stunt crews rig all the stunt mechanisms because i was bored and had nothing else to do, in the middle of the night. And down the street came a small mob of press with sean Connery walking at the head of it.

And they had just returned, the producers had just returned from Cannes, where they had pre-sold the film and it was going to be a financial success. And they had come back with Sean, who was going to be working on the film for 10 days.

They walked up to me, and introduced me and said "Michael Ironside, Sean Connery. Sean Connery, Michael Ironside." And Sean stuck out his hand. I was wearing rubber boots, shorts, a singlet, and covered in mud and grease from the wires we were setting up for the flying sequences. And having never met a childhood idol, I turned into a blithering idiot.

I said (and I quote) "My name is Michael Ironside, I am playing Katana in this movie" and then I looked at myself and said "But not in these clothes... I got a leather outfit, and a cape, and I got a REALLY BIG sword."

Leaving Sean's hand sticking out, and not having taken it.

Sean very gently tapped me on the shoulder and said "My good boy, of course you are. I have to go now."

And he walked away with the 30 press people behind him. I have it on tape, because my stunt coordinator videotaped it. It's in my archives of moments of real humility.

It's absolutely true.

Frajer245 karma

What's your best memory from Top Gun ?

MichaelIronside662 karma

At the end of the film, when Maverick buzzes the Tower at Miramar, that has never happened in real life. And the day we were shooting it, they had to shut down the airport, all of Miramar plus 2 adjoining airports, because the flight path to buzz the tower ran across all the runways. And the Top Gun pilots that were on the film with us, 8 of them, drew lots to see who was going to do it. And I remember when the fellow that got the opportunity, laughed and said "Hey it's me!" he laughed, and everybody looked at him very sternly, all the other pilots , and i said "What's going on?"

and they said "We can't talk about it."

Cut to the actual shooting of the fly-by of the Tower. They had 8 cameras set up, some of them locked off at 50 feet, because he was going to come in through Hangar Row, and go past the tower at 50 feet, and they had given clearance for that, the navy department had given clearance for that and we were all there watching. I was in one of the Hangar upper floors to watch.

And they said "Action"

And when he came by, I remember looking DOWN at the aircraft as it went by. And I heard on the walkie-talkie next to me the camera reports coming in... "Missed him.... missed him... missed him." Only two of the cameras captured him, he was below the 50 foot mark.

And I immediately understood what all the stern looks were for. The idea was if he was going to be the only person to Buzz the tower at Miramar, he had better do it bloody right.

So there was a huge discussion, and phone calls, and meetings for half an hour to get permission to have him do it a second time, while he buzzed around in the air. And he radioed in "Don't change the camera positions, I'll get it right this time."

And he came in on the second pass perfectly at 50 feet, and every camera got him. So my hat off to that pilot. I will not say his name, I do know him.

shivan21225 karma

During the shooting of Starship Troopers, did you realize that it was in fact very clever parody?

MichaelIronside617 karma

I don't think "parody" is an appropriate moniker to put on that film. I read STARSHIP TROOPERS when I was a teenager, which was a book, which was a very frightened, right wing, almost fascist view of our political world. And I was actually surprised that Paul Verhoeven was going to make a film about it. Or from it, I guess we should say, considering that Paul was a child of the second World War in Belgium and in Holland, he used to run around and plain the abandoned battlefields that the Germans and Allies had been in. So I didn't expect him to adapt a fascist, inflexible, very right wing, fear-based story. So I asked him, I said when I met him for the film, I said "Can I ask you one question?"

And Paul doesn't like questions. And he said "Okay, ONE question."

And I said "Why are you making a movie out of such a right wing manifesto?"

And he said "If I told a story that preached to everybody that war is bad," - in his own way of looking at the universe - if I made a film and preached to everybody that war is bad, and that violence based on politics and religion is bad, nobody would listen to me. So I'm going to create a perfect world where everyone is beautiful, and everyone has the right gun, but it's only good for killing bugs.

And that's what he said.

MichaelIronside431 karma

Also, Heinlein wrote a book I think it's called THE CITIZEN's MANUAL right after, where he believed you shouldn't have the right to vote unless you've worn a uniform and fought for your country. He was very paranoid about the communist takeover of the world. I must paraphrase all of this.

ShutUpSmock198 karma

You seem to portray a lot of hard-ass characters. Would you say you're more of a teddy bear or really are a tough guy like the vibe you give off?

MichaelIronside528 karma


I'm not always comfortable talking about acting. But i guess I might as well confess to it. I'm very well trained. And I have a tendency to create and drop into a character when I'm doing it. My earliest roles were heavies and when people make money off that sort of thing, in my industry, they really don't want you to step outside those lines. I actually hit an old lady with a shovel early on in my career, and they made money off of it in the movies. If there's a fault with our industry, what they really want you do is continue hitting people with shovels - the shovel might become gold, the old lady might be the latest, hottest on the market, but it's a very frightened, fragile market and industry. And it's hard to convince people that you can do other things than what they've made their money on.

Does that make sense?

nysethm190 karma

"They Sucked His Brains Out." How often in public do fans ask you to say that?

MichaelIronside402 karma


I'm guessing that you're probably in your mid-to-late 40's. If you're not, it means you've watched it on videotape and CD, wait it's DVD not CD.

A lot of people don't reference that film because it is from 3 decades ago. It's one of those ones that people find and are joyously happy when they find it. I can usually tell the age of somebody by their favorite film of mine: Scanners puts them 40+, Total Recall puts them 30's, Starship Troopers was late 20s to early 30s, V puts them in their 30s, Free Willy puts them in their twenties because they were children when they saw. It's kind of interesting...though now with online viewing and accessibility to films, it's a whole new playing field. There's a young director I worked with just recently so when I walked into meet him, he said "What happened to you?!"

He had just watched VISITING HOURS which was made in 1979/1980, and he expected me to look something like that. And he didn't know the film was 34 years old. He was very deflated. And somebody younger got that part.

gamer4maker180 karma


Total Recall is one of my favourite films, I watch it all the time. My question is what was it like working on the film (do you have any good stories), and what is Paul Verhoeven like as a director?

MichaelIronside481 karma

The film took six months to film, in Mexico City. It's kind of like running away and joining a very private circus, and Paul Verhoeven was the chief ringleader. Very much in charge, very much the boss, an absolute pleasure to work with because he knew exactly what he wanted. I remember one day at Estudios Churubusco, it's the oldest studio in North America, it's where a lot of Tyrone Power's earliest films were shot, the bullfighting and westerns and stuff, it started to snow. And it had not snowed in over sixty years. SO none of the Mexicans knew what to do. And the Latinos were standing around, not knowing what to do with the snow, and all the East Coast whitebreads starting making snowballs, and throwing them. And Mexico, as far as I know, had its first snowball fight in over 60 years. They thought it was like baseball, so they would pitch to throw it, and while they were getting set up, they were getting hit by like 8 snowballs! It was fun, it went on for about hour and a half. It was a freak storm, early in the morning.

True story.

MBprocast178 karma

Is there a particular "type" of person that you find approach you more often at cons and the like, or are you just universally appealing?

MichaelIronside646 karma

I was shocked when Splinter Cell first came out. I was on a transatlantic flight, first class, Swissair, and I ordered a cup of tea, and the next moment, I had this 3 piece suit with his tie undone standing off my right shoulder saying "You're Sam?!" and I said "No my name's Michael" and then I realized he meant Sam Fisher, and I said "Yes, I guess I am Sam."

And he was an absolute Splinter Cell freak. And the great thing about the game is that i've found over the years that a lot of people from different social, racial, and ethnic and national backgrounds to have a worldwide conversation.

Because they're all gaming together online! And where I thought the stereotypical gamer was an oversized pair of pants, runny nose, sitting in a corner, playing with his control, it's actually none of that. It hits every level of society, and every socio-economic group.

STFUxxDonny166 karma

Hello Michael,

You have been murdered in many interesting ways in your films. Which murder is your favorite and why?

MichaelIronside447 karma

I'm always losing body parts!

Some very very industrious fan sent me an account of all the body parts i had lost over the years, and asked me if it was part of my contractual obligation to lose body parts in films. I thought that was very clever. The truth for me is: I'm a pacifist. I believe that there's nothing on this planet worth killing for, but there's a lot worth dying for.

And the characters I've played, I've played them as damaged, dysfunctional, broken people. And with that sense of being trapped, strike out.

And I've tried to develop with the help of producers and directors, appropriate ways for people of that ilk to die.

Does that make sense?

In most cases, it's slow and in pieces.

playdevilsadvocate1154 karma

Hi Michael, Thanks for doing this! Big Fan here! What was your personal favorite roll to play and why?

MichaelIronside425 karma

I don't have one, a favorite. Total Recall I made the most friends on. I still have at least a dozen people from that movie that i can knock on the door, walk in, and sit down and open their fridge and have a talk.

shivan21143 karma

What is Extraterrestrial about and went the making smoothly?

MichaelIronside292 karma

Oh, the film was a joy to work on. Brittany Allen - I want to put out a personal check her out. She's absolutely a fabulous actress, and wonderful to work with.

It's teenagers vacationing at the family cottage, and instead of a slasher, goalie masked killer terrorizing them, it's an actual alien invasion.

My character is Travis, a paranoid dope-smoking, dope-growing Vietnam Vet who has been waiting all his life to be a hero. And gets a brief moment in the sun ("lamps").

SlippingAbout138 karma

Mr. Ironside, I loved you in V! Do you have any fond memories from that time?

MichaelIronside277 karma

First day of work, I met Mickey Jones, who played my sidekick, Chris Farber. Eleven months later, he was the best man at my wedding. And has been one of my closest friends until right now.

He's actually in the hospital right now, waiting for a kidney.

And, uh, wishing he was on a golf course.

I've stayed very close friends with a lot of people from that show. Coming from Canada, and working on Canadian features where we didn't always have a lot of money or time, I remember my first week on the set of V sitting around wondering "are they gonna always take this much time?"

And listening to the American actors complain about how fast everything was moving. That was amazing to me, in those early days. And I caught myself about 2 years ago on, I think it was Vegas, asking the first assistant director "Does this show ever slow down?"

And I started laughing when I said that, because i remembered that first day on V. It's the absolute truth!

bigbadbarl118 karma

Hey Michael, welcome to AMA! You've done some great voice work on some cartoons I used to watch as a kid (Darkseid!): As an actor, is getting into character for a voice role the same for you, or is it just a matter of making your voice super gravelly?

edited for clarity*

MichaelIronside278 karma

I think acting is acting. With Darkseid... about 35 years ago, I damaged my larynx on a project, and ended up rupturing the nodes at the top of my voice box. And I had to use a pad and not talk for 2 months, so it would heal. And when I did start talking, a voice teacher friend of mine in NYC taught me how to tighten and isolate my larynx so I could only use the bottom chords to protect the damaged chords that were the thinner and higher range chords.

And I ended up taking with a voice that only uses the bottom 3 chords.

And we used it for a character called, oh, what's his name, in the Forbidden Zone... Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. And that unique quality that I creates, that was also used on Darkseid, and that's why I did Darkseid. I lied. Incredible character. It's in all the makeup books, he had chrome teeth, and he talked like this.

judomonkeykyle110 karma

Were you called directly for your role in XMen: First Class, or did you audition?

MichaelIronside200 karma

Lauren Shuler Donner is an old friend. She co-produced Free Willy (the original) and she called up and asked if I would come in and do her a favor, and play that minor character, because they were behind and had to knock it out, and I said "absolutely." She's a joy to be around and to work for.

Cylinsier108 karma

I was very sad when Tony Scott passed away a couple years ago, especially under the circumstances. What was it like to work with him on Top Gun?

MichaelIronside233 karma

Too many stories.

Tony was a friend. I love and miss him.

RedFollower104 karma

Have you taken any souvenirs from movie sets you've been in?

MichaelIronside263 karma

I've taken at least one piece of memorabilia from every film. For example, the chairs in my dining room were made in Cuernevaca, and I helped make them, and brought them home from Total Recall. Things like that. I try and bring back some piece of emotional history or social history from each film I've worked on. My house is littered with them. Like in my TV room ,the prosthetic head from Highlander 2 is sitting in a corner. I stand in my living room, looking around.

Redwinevino92 karma

After your work before with DC could we ever see you in DCs new movies or the television series Arrow or The Flash?

Thank you for doing the AMA

MichaelIronside179 karma

I have friends that are producing on Arrow and The Flash! As of yet, the opportunity has not come up. I have a fairly busy schedule. If the opportunity arises and it's a good fit for both sides, I'm sure it'll happen.

commander-crook92 karma

What do you like to do for fun?

MichaelIronside204 karma

Golf. And cook. I'm pretty good at both.

commander-crook84 karma

Have any upcoming films we should all make note of?

MichaelIronside204 karma

There's one coming out next summer called Turbokid, an independent film we shot early this spring outside Montreal, Canada... Extraterrestrial which is available starting next week on October 17 (trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSMtWngABjE). I like this film. I really really liked the lead actress, Brittany, who was very talented and a joy to work with. I don't bullshit. I like this film. It's worth seeing.

thebageljew80 karma

Whats your favourite icecream flavour?

MichaelIronside178 karma

God, Maple-Walnut.

AGallagher41063 karma

I'll be at Comic Con tomorrow! I always want to know...what's your favorite ride in Disney?

MichaelIronside205 karma

Don't have one! I went there once with my children, and was broken-hearted cuz Snow White was on a pee break and I didn't get to meet her.

That's the absolute truth!