Of all the martial arts film that emerged in the 1980’s, one of the most iconic was American Ninja. Its star Michael Dudikoff suddenly became they most imitated action heroes in play grounds across the world!
Born Michael Joseph Dudikoff on October 8th 1954 in Redondo Beach, California, USA, the future American Ninja grew up in a large family. His father was from a Christian Orthodox family from Russia. He served in the Army before marrying Dudikoff’s mother, a French-Canadian native from Quebec who was extremely talented on the piano. The couple moved to California in the mid-1970s and had five children. Dudikoff is the fourth of the group.
Dudikoff graduated from West High School in Torrance, California and was studying child psychology at Harbor College, when he was discovered as a model. During this time, he also worked at a rehabilitation center for abused youth called Cedar House. He waited tables at Beachbum Burt’s in Redondo Beach, California to pay for his education.
During lunch one day, Dudikoff served Max Evans, a fashion editor with Esquire magazine, who came 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.
Dudikoff soon began acting, and he starred in several commercials for companies, including Coppertone, Coca-Cola for Japan, Army Reserve and Stridex.
His first television role took place after a meeting with theatrical agent Sid Craig. It was at this time that he landed the part as Joanie’s first boyfriend in the American sitcom Happy Days. Other television work included roles in Dallas, Gimme a Break!, and a Columbia Pictures movie-of-the-week called Sawyer & Finn. He is widely recognized for playing the character Private Joe Armstrong in the 1985 movie American Ninja and its sequels.
Other Dudikoff films include Tron (1982), Uncommon Valor (1983), Bachelor Party (1984), Avenging Force (1986), River of Death (1989), The Human Shield(1991), Chain of CommandCOBRA.(1994), Soldier Boyz (1996), Bounty Hunters (1996), Ringmaster (1998), The Silencer (1999), In Her Defense (1999), Gale Force (2002) and Quicksand (2002). He also starred as Robert “Scandal” Jackson Jr.in the TV series
Dudikoff mentioned in an interview with TRASHOTHEK in September 2012 that he had a desire to be in The Expendables 3. He also hinted at a possible sequel to American Ninja and Avenging Force.
As well as being a martial arts star on screen Dudikoff can also do the business in real life. He often mentors other actors and participates in martial arts, including 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.