Michael's story centers around how his seemingly idyllic and halcyon lifestyle is brought to a halt as his past demons and morally compromising mistakes come back to haunt him. All the while his midlife crisis pushes him to his ultimate snapping point.
- "I'm just a fat washed up jock who can't get his head around the fact his high school football career didn't play out the way that he planned. The only way I'm content and competent is with a gun in my hand or a price on my head."
- ―Michael during his therapy session.
Michael was born in either 1965 or 1968, possibly in the Midwest, which would explain why he spent some of his criminal career in North Yankton or on the East Coast, possibly indicating why he committed his first robbery in the outskirts of Carcer City. As a child, he didn't have the luxuries and privileges that his own children have and grew up in the deprived environment of a trailer park with his parents. Like Trevor and Franklin, Michael had a tough upbringing due to his father being an alcoholic and physically abusing him. Michael's father soon abandoned him and his mother. He was told an exaggerated amount of stories of why his father left, all of which included (but weren't limited to) him skipping town, being hit by an oncoming train and even joining the navy. During his time in high school, Michael was an acclaimed quarterback for an all-state football team. Michael would often put on an amazing performance during games and occasionally had his picture in the local newspaper, but his temperament issues and a constant stream of injuries ultimately forced him to quit.
As a young adult, Michael started breaking the law. According to Michael, he'd been in prison twice by the time he was twenty. He committed his first robbery in the outskirts of Carcer City in 1988, where he managed to steal $10,000 from a small business. While in prison, Michael learned many skills, including learning how to use a tattoo gun by tattooing his name on his cellmate's buttocks. Despite his failures and shortcomings, Michael perfected his criminal skills to the point where he became an expert marksman and efficient leader amongst other things. During this period of time, he associated himself with Lester Crest, an exquisite planner that would later assist Michael in planning out heists, as well as other tasks.
In 1993, Michael met Trevor Philips while he was escorting cargo across the border. While Trevor waited on the runway to meet his unknown employer, he noticed not one, but two dust trails coming up the road, despite the fact that he was told there'd only be one person meeting him with the cargo. Michael exited the first vehicle, while an older civilian exited the second. As it turned out, the older civilian had been carjacked by Michael. As Michael tried to make a hasty escape on foot, the older civilian attempted to get Trevor's attention as to what just happened. Trevor approached the civilian and fired off a flare gun into the man's eye, brutally killing him. He and Michael dumped the body into a lake after landing a plane. Trevor stated that the experience was horrible, as the flare was still burning from the inside of the man's skull as they dropped him off into the lake. Trevor and Michael both threw up after landing the plane since the dead man's stench was still inside the cockpit. After noticing how well they worked with each other, Michael brought an aimless Trevor under his wing as a partner for various crimes he would commit. They were both somewhat successful at their profession, but Michael claims that they were always impecunious and constantly on the run from the law, as Trevor's rage issues would cause him to murder someone in broad daylight and Michael's circumspection and foresight as well as his distinctive style of quoting from Solomon Richards' films (thus drawing attention) would cause him and Trevor to leave town after completing a job.
Michael met his future wife Amanda when she was working as a stripper at a strip club. After flirting with each other, the couple started a romantic relationship. Using money earned from illicit activities, Michael was even able to buy Amanda some breast implants, which would help with her stripping career, as well as her stint as a prostitute. This led to Michael creating his own prostitution racket. After a few months of dating, Amanda became pregnant with their two children Jimmy and Tracey while living at a trailer park in the Midwest. A few months later, they got married. Michael began to see that he had a lot more to lose if he was ever killed or imprisoned and started to keep to himself over time as a criminal and was much more careful - much to Trevor's annoyance, who saw Michael as "soft". A few years later, Trevor met Brad Snider, a fellow crook and future accomplice of Michael and Trevor. Michael and Brad would never show any empathy for each other and would often express distaste or distrust when working together. According to Trevor, Brad planned at one point to cut off Michael and work solely with Trevor.
At some point in 2004, Michael met FIB agent Dave Norton. Michael made a clandestine agreement with the FIB to cut ties with Trevor and Brad in exchange for government protection. In exchange for a monthly five-figure payment, Norton would provide Michael with a new identity and a home for him and his family in Los Santos. Michael would let Norton "kill" him in the upcoming bank heist in Ludendorff, a move that would make Norton's career as the agent who took down the supposed "Most Wanted Man in America". The staged robbery, however, turned out to be a disaster after Trevor murdered a guard who held Michael at gunpoint and when Michael, Brad and Trevor were ambushed by over a dozen police officers ready to arrest/kill them. During the getaway, their driver was killed by pursuing police; Michael took the wheel and drove the crew to the ambush point he and Norton had agreed on, where he claimed there was a helicopter waiting upon their arrival. The plan almost failed after their vehicle was hit by a train on a level crossing as they attempted to avoid a roadblock of North Yankton State Patrol vehicles.
Things yet again deviated from the plan when Brad, who later succumbed to his wounds, was accidentally shot by Norton after he walked in front of Trevor. Michael took the second bullet as planned - although the lack of a visible wound or blood loss implied that Dave intentionally missed him, or that Michael was wearing a bulletproof vest (and acted as if he believed the wound was fatal, imploring Trevor to leave him behind). Enraged beyond sense, Trevor proceeded to shoot numerous police officers before barely escaping the ambush with his life. Trevor was never caught by the police and eventually went into hiding.
After the incident, Michael Townley was declared dead, while Brad was assumed to have been sent to prison after being handed a long sentence. In reality, Brad was killed by Norton and was buried in Michael's supposed grave in Ludendorff. True to his word, Dave arranged for Michael to relocate to Los Santos, where he entered an "informal witness protection program". Michael and his family moved to a mansion in Rockford Hills, where they lived using the surname "De Santa" (a long-term alias of Michael's). Lester knew about the deal, but both men agreed not to disclose information on each other to the authorities. Lester moved to Los Santos as well, eventually settling in Murrieta Heights. Trevor evaded the authorities and made a new life for himself in the small desert town of Sandy Shores, a few miles north of Los Santos. At one point, Trevor wrote a letter to Brad, whom he believed to be incarcerated at Bolingbroke Penitentiary. Dave Norton intercepted the letter and used this as a means to communicate with Trevor and monitor him. Since Michael believed Trevor to be dead, Dave did not inform Michael about the letter.
Living the Vinewood Dream
- "Why did I move here? I guess it was the weather."
Michael's life in Los Santos has slowly pirouetted into a living nightmare. He has become massively depressed about having to abandon his criminal lifestyle for the family man persona that he once believed he desired. He now spends his days either getting drunk to dull the depression or miserably lounging by his pool, ignoring his family and becoming extremely narcissistic and self-centered in the process. Because of this, his children have rarely shown him any respect as they've grown up. Michael's marriage has also begun to deteriorate, and Amanda once caught Michael cheating on her with a stripper. In retaliation, Amanda had affairs with multiple men, and also spent most of the family's money on plastic surgery. Eventually, Michael goes through a midlife crisis and begins visiting Isiah Friedlander, an overpriced psychologist who doesn't appear to be bothered about Michael's problems.
Events of GTA V
- "Remember how I told you I knew Feds, who helped me after I retired? Well, things became complicated when recently I became... un-retired."
- ―Michael telling Franklin his situation
Nine years have passed since Michael faked his death, and after another counselling session with Dr. Friedlander, Michael has a chance encounter with his future accomplice-in-crime, African-American Los Santos youth Franklin Clinton when he unknowingly directs Franklin and his friend, Lamar Davis, to their repossession assignment.
A short time later, Michael's son, Jimmy, buys an SUV from Simeon Yetarian, an Armenian car salesman (and Franklin's boss), who sells the car to Jimmy on the agreement of monthly payments. After missing a single payment deadline, Simeon has Franklin repossess the vehicle from the De Santa Residence. Franklin sneaks onto Michael's property (and eventually into his house), and finds Jimmy's SUV, parked in the garage. Unbenownst to Franklin, Michael had spotted him during his break-in, and hides in the back seat of the SUV, under a blanket. Franklin repossesses the SUV and leaves the household with it. Michael suddenly arises from the back of the vehicle, and holds Franklin at gunpoint; Michael orders Franklin to drive back to the car dealership. Upon arrival, Michael, still keeping Franklin at gunpoint, orders him to drive through the front window of the dealership, which Franklin reluctantly does. Michael pays Franklin to leave, before assaulting Yetarian, threatening him with more violence if he tries to con Michael or his family again.
The next day, a heated argument between Michael's daughter Tracey, and his wife, Amanda, happens inside the house; Michael escapes to the pool and a sun-chair in his back yard, with a cup of whisky in his hand. Michael lays down in the chair and relaxes, listening to "I Don't Care Anymore" on his phone, where he is interrupted by Franklin, who took up Michael's earlier "offer" of a drink. Surprised that Franklin actually took the offer to heart, Michael offers to take him to a nearby bar. On the way, however, Jimmy phones Michael and informs him that he tried to sell Michael's yacht, but the "buyers" have hijacked the yacht with him still on board. Enraged, Michael, with Franklin in tow, drives after the hijackers and manages to rescue Jimmy, but is unable to recover the yacht. Michael is furious with Jimmy's actions, but is also impressed by Franklin's actions during the event, and tells him to visit him at any time.
On the same day as the yacht incident, Michael returns home to discover Amanda sleeping with her tennis coach, who escapes in just his underwear. Franklin shows up at the right time, and the duo chase after the coach in Michael's gardener's truck to a stilt house in Vinewood Hills, where Michael, fueled with rage and adrenaline, commands Franklin to hook the truck's winch around the supports of the house. Using the sheer power of the truck's engine, Michael loosens the house's supports, causing the majority of the house to collapse and crumble down the mountainside, which shocks Franklin, but also leaves Michael feeling satisfied with himself. During the drive back to Michael's house, Michael receives a call from his tennis coach, and learns that the house did not belong to the coach, but the girlfriend of a powerful Mexican cartel leader. She has him send a hit-squad after Michael and Franklin for their actions; the two manage to fend them off, but the cartel leader himself, Martin Madrazo, and some of his relatives, arrive at Michael's household. He orders his cousin to hand him a baseball bat, which he immediately uses to lightly bludgeon Michael with. Madrazo both orders Michael to pay for the rebuilding of the house at a cost of $2,500,000 - money which Michael does not have - and threatens further violence upon Michael if he does not provide the funds, before leaving.
The next day, Michael is watching a noir-style movie, but Jimmy cussing through his gaming headset distracts Michael from enjoying it, so he decides to venture upstairs to see what's going on. After Jimmy insults him, Michael throws a chair straight at Jimmy's television, calling him a "disrespectful little shit." This riles Jimmy up, but also furthers Michael's rage, where Michael eventually dares Jimmy to hit him. However, the heat quickly dies down, and Michael explains that he strongly hates how Jimmy is wasting his life away with doing nothing productive. Michael convinces a reluctant and still angry Jimmy to drive to Vespucci Beach with him for some father and son time; however, even in the car, Jimmy still argues to and about Michael and his poor mental health. Later on, they have a short bicycle race and finish at Del Perro Pier. Jimmy points out a luxurious and large yacht in the distance, and states that Tracey is on board, helping with an adult film. Enraged at the thought of that, Michael strips into his shorts and dives into the ocean water, swimming to the yacht. He eventually boards, and very quickly begins to cause drama on it, throwing a man overboard. He takes Tracey back to shore against her will on a Seashark, but not before two film producers give chase after him, leading to a shootout. Michael ultimately kills them both, and finally returns to land. At the beach, Tracey says that Michael and Jimmy are ruining her life.
With no other choice, Michael returns to his former life of crime, and contacts his old partner Lester Crest. Lester agrees to help Michael get the money, but only if he agrees to sabotage a prototype phone due to be unveiled by Jay Norris, the founder of social network site LifeInvader. Michael visits the LifeInvader Office and meets a computer expert named Rickie Lukens; he invites Michael upstairs and gets him to start working on the computer. Michael has to close dozens of provocative tabs and run Anteater antivirus software to rid the computer of the viruses. As a reward of his actually rather simple actions, Rickie tells him about the prototype and tells Michael where it is. Michael goes to the phone's location in the office, and swaps out the real phone with a dummy phone. He returns home and watches the Weazel News broadcast of Jay Norris live. Sometime in the livestream, Norris pulls his phone out to showcase one of the new features of it; Michael phones Norris as per Lester's requests, and, much to his shock, he causes the dummy phone (which has explosives planted in it) to explode right beside Norris' head, killing him instantly, and cutting off the broadcast prematurely. After collecting information about the contents of the Vangelico Jewelry Store, Michael and Lester set up a heist, with Michael insisting that his new friend Franklin is involved, as he believes he will find the experience beneficial.
- "You forget a thousand things every day, pal. Make sure this is one of ‘em."
- ―Michael to the security guard during the heist.
The heist goes smoothly, and the debt owed to Martin Madrazo is paid off, with Michael and Franklin taking a small cut of the takings for themselves. Unfortunately for Michael, Trevor, who has been alive this entire time, was watching the news report of the robbery; recognizing Michael's modus operandi (his Soloman Richards movie quotes), he goes into an initially calm and almost emotionless confusion. He then goes into a quick outburst of rage, killing Lost MC biker Johnny Klebitz in seconds. In his continued rage, Trevor sends his friend Wade to find Michael's whereabouts, and almost single-handedly wipes out most of his rivals in Sandy Shores. He then travels to Los Santos to find the man he thought was dead.
After several days of laying low from the jewel heist, Michael finds marijuana in the fridge, and correctly assumes it is Jimmy's. He toys with him, causing an eruption of anger amongst the family. Trevor unexpectedly walks in, much to everyone's shock and horror. Michael suspensely says "It's good to see you, man." Trevor almost reciprocates, yet he isn't the one that was "resurrected". Thankfully, the tension is broken by Jimmy revealing that Tracey has gone to audition for Fame or Shame. Realizing that Tracey will embarrass herself in front of the nation due to her "horrible dancing", Michael and Trevor rush to the Maze Bank Arena. The two rush downstairs to find Lazlow Jones. They watch in shock and horror as Tracey performs a sexually seductive dance and Lazlow begins to do a sexual pose behind her, angering both Michael and Trevor. The two give chase to a fleeing Lazlow in his red Dilettante to the Los Santos Canal. Trevor forces Lazlow to take off his pants and dance for them as he records it on his phone. In the aftermath, Tracey angrily blames Michael for "ruining her life" again, which doesn't appear to bother him even a bit.
Hours later, Michael meets Dave Norton at the Galileo Observatory. Dave explains that Michael's decision to rob the Vangelico Jewelry Store has brought the spotlight on Dave in the FIB, and that if his superiors read his files and discover his deal with Michael it could cause serious repercussions for the pair of them. Michael proceeds to do tasks for Dave in order to help keep his job with the FIB, in exchange for covering up the crimes that Michael commits. Michael's first task is to locate Ferdinand Kerimov, a suspected terrorist whom the IAA have declared to be dead. To do so, Norton knocks Michael unconscious to allow him to infiltrate the morgue. Michael regains consciousness during his "autopsy" and strangles one of the coroners. After searching the mortuary, Michael discovers Kerimov's identity tag attached to a woman's foot. Michael later escapes the morgue by killing all the guards. When he has evaded the police, Michael phones Franklin and informs him that he is affiliated to the FIB. Michael orders Franklin to leave the city for his own safety, but Franklin tells Michael that he will stay and help Michael to repay Michael's faith in him.
Michael continues to work for Norton. Steve Haines, a highly decorated but highly corrupt FIB agent and Norton's superior, contacts Michael and demands that he team up with Franklin and Trevor to extract Ferdinand Kerimov from the IAA building. Michael and Trevor are later summoned to a remote warehouse, where Michael is briefed that he will accompany Norton to assassinate an Azerbaijani terrorist suspect, Tahir Javan, whilst Trevor and Haines torture Kerimov for information on Javan's appearance. Kerimov provides information on Javan, who is later shot by Michael.
When Michael returns home, he finds his wife with her yoga instructor Fabien LaRouche, who asks Michael to participate, much to Amanda's irritation. The session passes relatively smoothly until Fabien performs a sexual pose on Amanda, which angers Michael. Michael lunges at Fabien, who dodges him, causing Michael to stumble into his swimming pool. Angered by her husband's behaviour, Amanda leaves with Fabien. Michael goes upstairs and speaks to Jimmy, who asks him to go with him to get a package from a friend. In the car, Jimmy says that this is not his friend, but Michael notes that he is the only person that Jimmy speaks with. They meet the friend at Burger Shot and he gives Jimmy some cannabis and a drink. On the way home, Michael drinks from Jimmy's cup and begins to feel drowsy. Jimmy reveals that he had the drink spiked with ketamine, before pushing Michael out of the car and revealing that he's taking Michael's car and some of the money from his bank account and is moving out. Michael has hallucinations of him being abducted by aliens before waking up in his underwear a few blocks away from his home. When he gets to the house, he finds a note from Amanda saying that his family has left due to Michael's poor behaviour as of late.
Trevor later contacts Michael and Franklin to partake in his own heist, which involves infiltrating the "lizard" mercenary group Merryweather Security and their unknown cargo at the docks. The heist goes as planned and Trevor finds a superweapon, presumably nuclear in nature, that Lester reveals is highly dangerous, especially in the hands of someone like Trevor and tells him that he must return it. Michael and Franklin agree, and Trevor is furious that he cannot keep the loot.
After the Merryweather heist, Michael, along with Franklin and Trevor, are called upon by Haines and Norton. This time they must rob an armored truck filled with funds that the IAA has received due to drug sales. Haines wants those funds to help support the Bureau. After some short preparation time, Michael decides they will approach it with "Blitz Play", the heist is executed with some mild LSPD and NOOSE resistance. Michael then proceeds to deliver the funds to billionaire Devin Weston, who offers Michael a partnership with his movie idol, who happens to be movie producer Solomon Richards. However, he has to steal several rare cars for Weston with Trevor and Franklin. Offered his dream job, Michael eagerly agrees and delivers the cars to Weston. Michael is thrilled to finally meet Richards, who hires him as an assistant. His first job is to convince Ancelotti crime family made man Rocco Pelosi to obey Solomon's wishes for how the actors should behave during the production of Solomon's latest motion picture Meltdown. Michael stealthily climbs to the helipad where he punches Rocco. He then performs some dangerous maneuvers in the helicopter to convince Anton Beaudelaire to follow Solomon's orders. This gets Michael on Richards' good side and is promised the role of producer for the upcoming film if Michael continues his good work.
Martin Madrazo later summons Michael and Trevor to his home. Madrazo, who now sees Michael as a friend, requests that he and Trevor shoot down his cousin's private jet, which is carrying some sensitive files that Madrazo wants back. Michael does his part by bringing it down with a weapon inside a van, while Trevor manages to kill Javier and take the incriminating files. After destroying the van, Michael finds out, to his horror, that due to them being used by Martin to do his dirty work while getting stiffed from payment, Trevor has kidnapped Madrazo's wife Patricia. Knowing full well what Madrazo might do to them if he catches them, Michael agrees to hide out in Sandy Shores with Trevor. While hiding in Sandy Shores, Haines and Norton summon the trio for another mission against the IAA. This time, the two agents plot to raid an IAA chemical plant to steal a dangerous neurotoxin that the agency is plotting to use in a simulated terrorist attack, with the sole purpose of receiving more funds from the US government. To carry out this operation, the trio must first secure enough funds to purchase a Cargobob and other assorted equipment that the FIB can't assign them. Ultimately, the crew settles upon robbing the Paleto Bay bank, as it contains millions of dollars deposited there by Blaine County's corrupt law enforcement department who extort money from all the local cannabis farms, whore houses and meth labs (according to Trevor).
After planning the robbery, Michael and Trevor meet at Trevor's trailer, where they have a short conversation and drink beer. They then leave the trailer and during the way, Trevor receives a call from Franklin, who upon Trevor's request is tailing the remaining O'Neil brothers - inbred, redneck meth dealers, who are vengeful because of Trevor's earlier attack on the O'Neil household, resulting in the murders of most of the O'Neil Family and the destruction of their farm. Franklin chases the O'Neils, who crash because of an elk on the road and escape in a forest, located somewhere in the Raton Canyon. Franklin then calls Trevor for air support and eventually, Trevor and Michael come with a helicopter, used in the extraction of Ferdinand Kerimov, out of the IAA building. Using a rifle, fitted with a thermal scope, Michael shoots Walton and Wynn O'Neil dead, but can't get a clear image of O'Neil gang leader Elwood O'Neil, who is hiding behind a rock and firing anti-tank rockets towards the helicopter. With the help of Chop, Franklin locates and kills Elwood, after which he and Chop are picked up by the helicopter and safely return back to Sandy Shores.
Using stolen military body armour and machine guns, Trevor, Michael, Franklin and one gunman successfully rob the Paleto bank, taking a small cut each and giving the largest profit to Haines and Norton so they can purchase the equipment for the chemical plant robbery, much to the team's irritation. While awaiting this operation, Michael and Trevor carry out another job, raiding a Merryweather courier train that carries gold and priceless artifacts so that they can pay off Martin Madrazo. Trevor derails the train over a bridge in Raton Canyon and Michael dives into the river below to retrieve the merchandise, taking an ancient Aztec fertility statuette that Madrazo would value. Trevor is greatly dissatisfied with Michael's choice of take, but he calms down once Michael proposes that, once they get the FIB off their cases, they should carry out "the big one" - stealing millions of dollars worth of gold bullion from the Union Depository. Initially, Trevor states that it can't be done, verging suicidal almost, but mutually accepts when Michael challenges him on that being a line he's afraid to cross.
After returning to Los Santos, Michael receives an unexpected visit from Trevor at his Rockford Hills mansion, who pitches him the idea of busting Brad out of jail. Michael's reluctance to go ahead with the plan leads to a debate, during which Trevor finally realizes that Brad is in fact dead and buried at Michael's supposed grave in North Yankton. He hastily travels back there with Michael in pursuit. After a stand off at his (Brad's) grave, they are attacked by Wei Cheng's henchmen, who incorrectly assume that Michael and Trevor are lovers and had been surveying them ever since their exile to Sandy Shores. Trevor flees, leaving Michael to fend off the henchmen himself. Although he manages to kill most of Cheng's henchmen, Michael is captured when he tries to escape in his car, which Trevor sabotaged to prevent Michael from escaping. After being tortured by Cheng at a meat processing factory back in Los Santos, he is rescued by Franklin.
Michael revisits the movie studio to resume work with his idol Solomon Richards. After witnessing Pelosi and his associate Gianni assault Solomon, Michael chases the two and ends up killing both of them. In return, Solomon keeps to his word and makes Michael a credited producer in his upcoming film, much to Michael's overwhelming joy. He leaves a voicemail message on Amanda's phone to try to convince her that he is finally doing something good with his life.
Michael and Franklin are called up once again by Haines for one more job: to break into the FIB building and remove incriminating evidence against Haines. This goes according to plan, but when Michael meets Haines and Norton at the Kortz Center, Haines attempts to arrest him to cover his involvement in the raid. However, this drastically turns into a Mexican standoff between Sanchez, who is revealed to be working with a rival FIB team (who want to arrest the trio because of the raid), an IAA team led by the U.L. Paper Contact (because of the FIB's constant sabotages), a Merryweather team (for Michael's involvement in their troubles), Michael, Dave and Haines. The situation quickly spirals out of control as Haines is shot in the leg by an FIB operative but manages to escape, killing Sanchez in the process. Dave and Michael manage to fight their way through the Merryweather mercenaries, FIB and IAA agents (Michael has the option to kill the U.L. Paper Contact) and escape with the help of Trevor, who, despite not forgiving Michael, removes his vow of killing Michael and wants him in for "the Big Score".
Having had enough of being alone, Michael finally seeks out and reunites with his family. With this and his involvement in Solomon Richards' upcoming film, things are finally starting to look positive, until Devin Weston announces his intentions to exploit the movie studio's insurance policy by hiding the completed film from the world so he could claim the insurance money, ultimately closing and destroying the studio and building condos on the site. Infuriated upon learning of Weston's intentions, Michael chases the former's assistant to the airport to try and retrieve the film's master copy. During the chase, she is accidentally killed after being sucked into a jet engine. Michael retrieves the film, and Solomon arranges a premiere so that it cannot be tampered with any further. At the premiere, Weston unexpectedly shows up and cryptically threatens Michael with Amanda and Tracey's lives because of his interference. After Michael rushes home with Jimmy, he kills the intruders (revealed to be Merryweather mercenaries), sends his family into hiding and notifies Lester that they pull off the Big Score now. The heist is successful, and Michael, Franklin, Trevor, Lester and their crew manage to steal $201,000,000 worth of gold bullion.
Following the heist, Michael's fate depends on Franklin's choice to kill him, Trevor or everyone that had double-crossed them.
Whilst chasing Trevor around the Murrieta Oilfields, Franklin calls Michael for help. He arrives in a stolen Premier and t-bones Trevor's truck, causing Trevor to crash into a gas tanker, soaking him in gasoline. Franklin shoots the gas to incinerate Trevor before the tanker explodes. Michael and Franklin reflect on how crazy Trevor was and it was this constant craziness which led to his demise. Shortly after, they split up before Franklin sarcastically remarks the event as an "illuminating experience", which Michael counters by telling him to survive, and everything else is "bullshit" (Something Sensible).
Michael meets Franklin in the desert and reflects on their partnership. However, in Franklin's reply, he notices Franklin's intention to kill him and escapes, eventually ending up at the Palmer-Taylor Power Station. They continue to chase up on one of the chimney walkways and after a minor scuffle, Franklin pushes Michael over the rail, leaving him hanging precariously. Franklin can choose to drop him or have second thoughts and attempt to save him, but with either choice, Michael falls to his death (The Time's Come).
Michael helps Franklin and Trevor fight off Merryweather and the corrupt FIB agents at the foundry, then has Trevor and Franklin kill Steve Haines and Wei Cheng, while he kills Stretch, to not implicate Franklin from its effects. Afterwards, he meets Franklin and Trevor, the latter having kidnapped Weston and locked him in the trunk of his car, at the foothills of Mount Chiliad. After taunting Weston on their apparent victory, the trio pushes the car off the cliff and into the ocean, destroying the car and killing Weston. Making amends with Trevor, Michael reflects that he is getting too old to continue a life of crime, and drives home with Franklin, agreeing to end his partnership with Franklin and Trevor, but remaining friends with them. (The Third Way).
Characters murdered by Michael De Santa
- Jay Norris - Murdered for Lester Crest, so that he would re-join Michael for robberies.
- Pete's assistant - Strangled to death to prevent him from sounding the alarm at the IAA morgue.
- Tahir Javan - Murdered on orders from Steve Haines for alleged ties to terrorist groups.
- Javier Madrazo's pilot - Died as a result of a plane crash, caused by Michael's gunfire.
- Walton O'Neil - Murdered for seeking retribution against Trevor Philips.
- Wynn O'Neil - Murdered for seeking retribution against Trevor Philips.
- Gianni - Murdered for harassing Solomon Richards.
- Rocco Pelosi - Murdered for harassing Solomon Richards.
Strangers and Freaks murders
- Blake - Can be killed during the chase in the mission Daddy's Little Girl.
- Freddy Slade - Can be killed during the chase in the mission Daddy's Little Girl.
- Vangelico store manager - Can be killed during the loud approach in the mission The Jewel Store Job to prevent her from sounding the alarm (only if Michael chose a bad gunman in Casing the Jewel Store).
- Deputy Kirkman - Can be killed during the The Paleto Score.
- Deputy Grimes - Can be killed during the The Paleto Score.
- Patrick McReary - Can be killed during his random event.
- U.L. Paper Contact - Can be killed during the shootout at the Kortz Center. (The Wrap Up)
- Isiah Friedlander - Can be killed during Michael's final visit to him.
- Simeon Yetarian - Can be killed during a Random Event.
- Elwood O'Neil - Murdered by either Michael or Franklin for seeking retribution against Trevor Philips.
- Tracey's stalker - Can be killed or spared during the mission Doting Dad.
- Stretch - Murdered for trying to have Franklin Clinton and Lamar Davis killed. (Deathwish Ending)
- Devin Weston - Murdered for trying to have Michael and his family killed. (Deathwish Ending)
- Trevor Philips - If Franklin chooses to kill Trevor but doesn't shoot him, then Michael will shoot instead. (Kill Trevor Ending)
- Pete - Can be killed during Dead Man Walking. (He's hiding behind a reception desk.)
Heinous crimes committed by Michael
- The robbery of a cash depot in North Yankton.
- The destruction of the Premium Deluxe Motorsport vehicle dealership.
- The destruction of an exotic house in Vinewood Hills.
- The robbery of the Vangelico jewel store.
- The infiltration of the city morgue.
- The robbery of a high-tech device from Merryweather.
- The robbery of the agency funds from an armor truck.
- The theft of two vehicles for Devin Weston.
- The theft of military hardware.
- The robbery of Blaine County Savings Bank.
- The robbery of a train and its profitable belongings.
- The infiltration of the Humane Labs and Research facility and the robbery of a chemical nerve toxin.
- The infiltration of the FIB's HQ.
- The three way shootout between him, FIB and the Merryweather in Kortz Center.
- The robbery of four tons of gold bullion from the Union Depository Tower.
Michael is a Caucasian male, aged either 45 or 48, with grayish black hair and light green eyes. Michael is of heavy build and is 6' 2" (1.88 m) tall and weighs 210 lbs (95 kg).
In official artwork, he is shown to have blue eyes. His default appearance is a cleft chin with a Lexington hairstyle and a short stubble around his face. Michael's physique is thicker and more heavily built than the likes of Trevor and Franklin, having burly and veiny arms and legs. This most certainly comes from his time as a quarterback and his stint in prison. Although Michael isn't obese or out of shape, many people around him will occasionally make fun of his rather large midsection, such as Jimmy and Trevor or even himself at many times. Michael's movement is also much more slower than Franklin and Trevor's, as he's much older and on top of the fact that his ten year retirement from crime has forced him to not be as physically active as the other two. During Pack Man, Trevor tells Lamar that when he met Michael he was "kinda fat, but strong underneath".
Michael's initial wardrobe sets him with a gray two-piece suit without a tie and casual attires like beach shorts with sandals or polo shirts. His gray suit is his default outfit used in most of his artwork and concept art. He shows approval as he's trying out outfits at Ponsonby's, opposite to the clear disdain of buying items from Suburban or Binco. His Prologue appearance has him with shorter, shaven hair. It is somewhere between his default Lexington and The Wood hairstyle, somewhat similar to the Cesar haircut of CJ. His facial features are still the same.
Michael's beta appearance can be seen in Trailers one and two, where he is seen with green eyes and an older look. This was changed later in the character's development to make him look like he wasn't too old to perform some of the things he would do during gameplay.
Grand Theft Auto series
Michael is a very muddled person, even confused by his "good and evil" personality.
He spends an uncommon amount of time in his head, where he can comfortably think or reminisce about certain things or aspects that give him a brief moment of nostalgia from his glory days. Nevertheless, it also constrains him into a world of wistfulness and bewilderment as he ponders the reason why things aren't going in the direction he planned it would. Michael has an obsession for materialistic appearance and images, making it the main reason for why he dreamt of living out his Vinewood Dream with his family. He claims to Franklin that he has lived a repeated pattern of "Chase things, get em', hate em'".
Michael holds a deep-seated amount of self-hatred, due to him wanting to live a life that's a falsehood rather than coming to the conclusion that his troubling mistakes has garnished a great deal of misfortune upon himself, his family, and old friends and associates of his (his deal with the FIB is a prime example). The self-hatred gives him an exceptionally short temper that he doesn't know how to control, which fills him with rage and causes him to not think at times. One example would be where he caught Amanda having an affair with her tennis coach, Kyle Chavis. He chases Kyle to a mansion and pulls it off a hillside believing that it belonged to him (however, nearly everyone around Michael (except Franklin), including Chavis himself, knew that the mansion was too expensive for him to afford with his salary). Sarcasm is something that Michael firmly grasps because of the self-hatred, as he doesn't know how to respond to his family or friends properly at times without it. He indicates this in the mission Paleto Score Setup, where he proclaims that sarcasm is one of the only things he has left in this world that can't be taken away from him.
Michael is a highly egotistical and narcissistic person. He'll only be concerned about the issues he's being pulled through, instead of the situations that he constantly puts his family or his friends through and will often get unfairly defensive when someone rightfully criticizes him. A case in point of this wrong doing is shown in one of the many heated arguments he has with his wife, Amanda. At the start of Fame or Shame she castigates him for not giving her any support in raising their children and only wanting to cater to himself by Getting drunk, or you're staring miserably at the clouds, or you're out there doing God only knows what. He responds with the fact that he, Pulled you out of a midwestern trailer park, got you a big mansion in Rockford Hills, and that the only thing she'll have to worry about is What part of your body you want to have chopped off or sucked out again. Another instant is in the same mission, where Trevor chides him for letting Tracey humiliate herself on public television the way she did and labeling it as Poor parenting. Michael responds in a defensive manner, Yeah, thanks for the fucking feedback. It means a lot coming from you. The same goes for Lester and Franklin as well. During Predator, Trevor criticises Michael for instantly thinking about himself, claiming it is "typical" of him. During The Paleto Score, Michael argues with Trevor over the latter's kidnap of Patricia Madrazo, resulting in their exile in Sandy Shores to avoid the wrath of her husband Martin. Michael complains that Trevor is not making his situation any easier, with Trevor again criticising Michael for only thinking about himself. At the beginning of The Bureau Raid (Fire Crew entry), when Lester is explaining the plan to Michael, Michael describes it as 'a bit idiotic'. Lester explains that he tried his best and that Michael chose this method. He then claims that Trevor has a point about Michael "whining too much", to which Michael responds by giving Lester the finger. At the beginning of the Roof Entry setup for the same mission, Lester continuously reproaches Michael for his constant bickering about the former managing to still stay calm and collective as they're about to pull off a dangerous raid on one of the most secure buildings in the country. Michael gets annoyed to the point where he refused to give Lester's cane back to him unless he takes back everything he stated previously. Lester does so reluctantly. When Michael tries to pull the same bickering move on Franklin, the latter fires back at him with irritation, leaving Michael to apologize for now noticing how self-absorbed he's been.
Michael often displays remarkable hypocrisy; he'll often scold the people around him for their mistakes and habits but isn't willing to call out his own even if they're similar, if not worse, than theirs. At the start of the mission Daddy's Little Girl, he criticizes Jimmy for slouching all day in front of the TV, playing video games and eating profusely, despite the fact he does almost the exact same thing. With Amanda, he claims that she is wasteful with his money even though she notices that Michael's day trading is hurting the family finances during The Good Husband on their way home. He does the same thing towards Trevor, openly judging his will to maim, kill, and steal with ease and pleasure while not showing any signs of remorse while he actively provokes trouble with Simeon, Blake, Lazlow and Madrazo over petty issues his family has. During The Paleto Score, Michael complains to Trevor that he misses his family, with Trevor angrily retorting that Michael never paid them any attention and only misses them now that they've left him. Although he openly claims to his therapist that he does the same thing, he hides it underneath multiple lies, a few of them being that he doesn't enjoy the thrill of the action or that he doesn't hold a plain yet willfully strong addiction to chaos.
The see-through hypocrisy can simultaneously show how easily and massively dishonest he is. Whether or not it's with himself, his family or his friends, Michael displays difficulty when trying to convey the truth. For instance, whenever Trevor brings up a subject involving Brad, Michael will immediately yet vaguely change the topic and once Trevor realizes that Brad is dead, Michael continues to make lies about his grave being empty instead of it actually containing the former's corpse. Even after Brad's corpse is shown, Michael will unwittingly lie about his death, instead of coming out with the truth about the staged robbery that took place nine years ago, which causes Trevor to grow irritated and angry. At the end of the mission Surveying the Score, Franklin questions Michael's past relationship with Trevor to the point where Michael has to steadily ask him to stop, in hopes of covering his tracks and not letting Franklin catch wind of his deal with the FIB nine years ago and quite possibly letting Trevor know in the process.
His judgement calls will also cause negative repercussions. After being "green lit" by Martin Madrazo, he brushes it off, telling Franklin that he's known worse human beings. He then begins to take it back after receiving an astringent blow to his midsection with a baseball bat, which was delivered by Madrazo himself. He even declares Martin a terrifying psychopath. With Devin Weston, he wanted no part in Weston's plans to highjack several high-end vehicles, that is, until Weston promised to arrange a meeting with Michael's idol, Solomon Richards. After this, he makes the choice of keeping Devin in a positive mood in order to make sure that none of his business ventures are ruined, even if that means making Franklin work for Devin continuously without payment.
Despite all of the negatives, Michael does possess a good side to his personality. He is a very considerate individual, as he paid Franklin for doing what he was forced to do and drive through the front of his boss' business, even though the latter broke into Michael's mansion. Despite all the problems he has in his family, he dearly loves them but is frequently angered with Tracey's social life, Jimmy being jobless, lazy and a video game addict and Amanda spending most of his money and cheating on him. However, after reuniting with his family, Michael's family issues slowly started to dissolve.
It should also be noted that it's very clear that Michael cares for his friends more than he shows. If Franklin chooses to kill Trevor in the end, Michael will stop hanging out with Franklin because he is devastated by Trevor's death. If you choose to kill Michael, his extremely aggressive behavior towards Franklin shows that he loved him as a friend and can't believe Franklin didn't feel the same.
Michael, being the opposite of Trevor, is thorough and rational when it comes to crime. This makes others leave him to the planning and leading of robberies and missions, as he is usually the one to come up with a plan for a heist alongside Lester. He also shows consideration for people caught up in robberies. An example is that, if you choose to pose as guards for the Union Depository heist, Michael will give the guard he blackmailed a bar of gold for helping them get past security.
Michael will also always put his family's safety above anything else, going as far as to make a moral compromise with the FIB to ensure his family was not in danger. When Trevor first came back to find Michael in his house, Michael immediately put himself in front of Jimmy, not knowing what Trevor was going to do. When Devin Weston sent Merryweather to Michael's house to kill his family, Michael instantly abandoned his movie premiere to engage the hostile forces, rescue his family and subsequently move them to a new location. Michael's care about his family is finally reciprocated by Amanda towards the end of the game, at which time she makes him promise not to get killed.
Towards the end of the game, Michael has started to accept his borderline-sociopath personality, with him stating in the final cutscene of the Deathwish ending that he still hates himself, but at least he knows the words for it. Michael has also started to work on his anger issues when his family comes back and can be seen showing a great amount of regret due to the decisions he's made, becoming more truthful and open. This is evident when he hangs out with Franklin; he expressed great distaste for his decision to join the witness protection program, seeing as the decision itself was hollow and only created more problems as well as causing much more hatred for not only for himself but the people around him as well.
Relationships with other characters
While living in North Yankton, Michael had a stronger bond with his loved ones and they were able to get along with each other. But after relocating to Los Santos, Michael's obsession with living the Vinewood Dream along with his depression about having to abandon his criminal lifestyle made him neglect and alienate his family, while he himself became egocentric, selfish and conceited. Early within the storyline, Michael will be seen constantly fussing, bickering and arguing with his family up until the mission Did Somebody Say Yoga?, where they'll abandon him in search for a more peaceful living. After Michael reunites with his family in the mission Reuniting the Family, Michael will be seen bonding with them much more often than before, as they all promise to fix up their relationship with each other before things become disastrous. While hanging out with Amanda, Michael admits that he thought he lost his family for good once they left him and that made him eager to change his ways.
Amanda De Santa - Amanda's relationship with Michael began in a strip club where she was a stripper. The two fell in love with one another, had two children and eventually married. Amanda had so much devotion to Michael that she even left everything she had in North Yankton to moved to Los Santos, along with their children, to begin their lives in the witness protection program. During the events of the game, Amanda can barely tolerate him any more due to his arrogant and hypocritical personality and verbally abusive behavior towards her. After catching Michael in bed with another stripper, Amanda began to have affairs with multiple men, including her tennis coach, which further strains their marriage, with Michael implied to be reciprocating this infidelity by calling up hookers at motels and allows her to have affairs on the condition of not having sex with other men in his home. Amanda finally hits her breaking point when Fabien does a sexual pose on her, which angers Michael, who then attempts to punch Fabien. Fabien reacts by sidestepping and makes Michael land in the swimming pool. Amanda then berates Michael for his attempted action, calling him "a pathetic psychopath" and leaves him with Tracey while Jimmy moves out on his own (according to him).
Michael later suffers from depression after his wife and kids leave him. However, Jimmy reveals to Franklin that Amanda very much misses Michael, frequently asking about him and even telling Franklin at one point to let her know if he's doing well. It turns out that Amanda as well as their kids were even more miserable living with Fabien than with Michael. After Jimmy revealed that Fabien is starting to bore Amanda and is only interested in the sexual aspect of the relationship as well as being a mooch, he tells Michael the couple's hangout spot. Amanda was then seen hanging out with Fabien at a local Bean Machine coffee shop, getting berated by Fabien and later being told to pay for a custom-made unitard. Michael steps in angrily in defense of Amanda, and she allows Michael to hit him in the face with a laptop. Michael then agrees to arrange a therapy session with Dr. Friedlander, bringing Jimmy and Tracey along. During the session, Michael and Amanda had a screaming match in front of their kids (during which he threatens to kill Amanda if she ever has him put in jail), in hopes of clearing up the situations that would ultimately keep their marriage in ruins. Amanda and the kids move back in with Michael afterward, and their feelings are rekindled by the end of the story, brought closer together by various events. Certain random switch ups with Michael involving Amanda will also be altered: For example, whereas in the past, when dropping Amanda off at a mall or something of the sort, they would spout rude words at each other, they now kindly give each other goodbyes. Another example would be Michael getting out of bed after a sexual night with Amanda, to which she'll even smack him on his buttocks as he leaves the room. He also expresses generosity afterwards, whereas before he was stingy with his money.
Jimmy De Santa - Jimmy's relationship with his father is rocky as well and even though Michael is far from perfect, he loves his son but does not know how to display it. His son is not very moral either as he often takes drugs and attempted to sell his father's boat without him knowing, ending with the boat being stolen. They have a confused and strained relationship with each other. Michael tries to improve their relationship by spending time with his son to no avail as his son lacks any form of respect for his father. At one point, he even drugs Michael, takes money from his bank account, and steals his car. However, Jimmy soon regrets his actions and visits his father, saying he does love him and promises to get a job and not be a lazy, pot-smoking, video game addict, which can be seen in-game. The relationship with his father seems to improve after the mission Reuniting the Family, clearly shown in the cutscenes when switching characters to Michael. Examples of this are both of them arriving home from a bicycle ride or both playing video games at Jimmy's room, with Michael always losing.
Tracey De Santa - Michael's relationship with his daughter is also said to be frail. Despite this, Michael does love Tracey but is often angry at her loose behavior and social life such as her hanging out with drug dealers and porn stars, and embarrasses her by interrupting her audition for " Fame or Shame " by chasing Lazlow out of the building for performing a sexual pose on her. Once Tracey leaves her father, she gives him a phone call, claiming that he needs help. Like Jimmy however, she continues to grow tiresome of Fabien over the course of the storyline. She'll even email Michael at one point to explain that she misses him. After Michael's family returns home, Tracey seems to develop a better relationship with her father, which started improving once Michael humiliates Lazlow in the tattoo parlor and demands that Lazlow puts Tracey on "Fame or Shame" by doing whatever she wants in the show. Michael even helps Tracey deal with a creepy, old man who's been stalking her. However, Tracey still continues trying to be a celebrity, but somewhere after the story ended, she bleeted that people need to stop sending her sex toys, because she doesn't do that on camera.
Michael has had a rather difficult time with making friends. The friends that he surrounded himself with in his previous life were, in his words, not the type to associate with since they either ended up missing or dead. Even after becoming semi-retired he still doesn't have many friends. This is mostly caused by his antisocial personality that keeps him wrapped up inside his head.
Trevor Philips - Trevor's relationship with Michael started in 1993, twenty years prior to the events of the game, where he and Trevor were escorting cargo across the border. Trevor claims that Michael's victim came after him, so Trevor shot a flare into the other man's head, and dumped the body using his plane (which Trevor claimed "Never smelled the same again."), and as soon as they left the plane, they both threw up, and they became friends.
Michael convinced Trevor to join him to commit further robberies, seeing as they worked well as a team. Thus, they started a long partnership. While Trevor viewed Michael as a friend and possibly a spiritual brother who could understand him and his psychotic ways, Michael viewed Trevor as an insane liability with special uses.
Their alleged friendship was okay until Michael met his future wife Amanda, causing their friendship to strain since Trevor and Amanda didn't see eye to eye. After the botched heist took place, Michael and Trevor both assumed that one another was dead.
After Michael's relapse into crime, Trevor discovers that he is alive and comes to the conclusion that he faked his death. Trevor, while still viewing Michael as a friend, starts to treat him with derision as he feels betrayed by Michael but both still get on well enough.
Their friendship is even further strained when Trevor begins to piece together the truth about Michael's survival and Brad's death, leading to a standoff between the two. From this point on, Trevor vowed to kill Michael, but still needed the man alive so they could team up again to pull off one big job.
Michael sees in Trevor everything he despises on himself, so he'd try to pin everything into him or think in betraying him once again. This is highlighted during the mission The Big Score, as Michael and his crew are escaping from the cops, he'd be saying things like "If we are caught, it's all Trevor's idea".
In the Deathwish ending, Michael and Trevor have one last standoff before Franklin explains that both men have two options: kill each other right now, or work together to kill Devin Weston, Steve Haines and the rest of their enemies. Trevor ends up picking the second choice, with the outcome being successful. As the incident comes to an end, it seems that Michael and Trevor have finally managed to rekindle their friendship, with Trevor considering Michael as a friend, albeit one that he hates, which Michael manages to accept.
After this, while hanging out with each other, Michael will offer Trevor a part of his share from the big score (which Trevor rejects), and apologizes once again, this time Trevor accepting the apology. The next time they hang out, Trevor will apologize to Michael and admits that he shouldn't have reacted the way he did.
In Something Sensible, Trevor won't become friends with Michael again, as he caused him to crash while he was being chased by Franklin. He will state, I thought I was with one Judas! I'm surrounded by them. If Franklin doesn't kill Trevor, then Michael will shoot him instead. He will tell Franklin weeks later he regrets his actions, and doesn't want to know him anymore.
In The Time's Come, Trevor is not directly involved, but works out that Franklin is responsible. It seems that Trevor wanted to forgive Michael, but didn't have a chance to apologize. He will call Franklin a Judas, a backstabber and a traitor.
Franklin Clinton - Franklin meets Michael after stealing a car from the latter's house. Michael then has Franklin take him to whomever tasked Franklin with stealing his son's car. Right from the start, Franklin was impressed with Michael's professional criminality and after his firing from Premium Deluxe Motorsport, he sought out Michael for possible work. After Franklin manages to save Jimmy, Michael sees much potential in the young man. After Franklin's help with the jewelry store heist, Michael refers to Franklin as a true friend and the "son I always wanted". Franklin in turn seems to have respect for Michael and is grateful for improving his life and is loyal to him for it. He even helps Michael out with his government issue. After meeting Trevor, Franklin starts to see many arguments between the two, but rather than siding with one of them, Franklin tries to calm the two of them down in hopes that it won't escalate into something more violent and unnecessary. Franklin also notices Michael's personality and will confront him about it at times. If the player chooses to kill Michael, Franklin can be shown to deeply regret his decision, not being able to face his family or Trevor. If the player chooses to kill Trevor, they still remain friends, although their friendship is shown to be greatly strained. If the player chooses the Deathwish ending, if Michael and Franklin are hanging out, they'll talk about how they can't believe they pulled it off, and that Franklin is extremely grateful to Michael for the experience. Also, in an e-mail, Michael will tell Franklin that "he's a friend for life". However, unbeknownst to Franklin, Michael was also the source of Franklin's problems as the former's actions led to the latter being fired, being involved with federal crimes and being hung out to dry after he kills Michael under pressure.
Lester Crest - Lester first meets Michael at an unknown period of time and seems to be a mastermind in Michael's robberies many years prior. It was stated by Michael that he wasn't much of a friend towards Lester and after they've encountered one another during the events of the game, Michael decides to make up for that. He can often be seen sticking up for Lester when he can't defend himself from much stronger people, such as Trevor. However, that won't stop Michael from bullying Lester if he criticizes the former for his hypocrisy.
Dave Norton - Years prior to the events of the game, Michael arranged a deal for him to hand over Trevor and Brad to the FIB by faking his death so that Dave would gain fame and respect for supposedly "killing" Michael during the North Yankton heist. After the event took place, Dave managed to keep his promise by having Michael and his family move to a luxurious mansion in Rockford Hills, Los Santos while in the witness protection program. Michael would also pay Dave hush money once a month, to keep their business deal a secret. Their relationship was fine, up until Michael performed a heist at the Vangelico Jewelry Store. Michael would then perform several jobs for Dave and his boss, Steve Haines. Dave will admit that even though he was a bank robber, he always did "like" Michael. They would occasionally defend each other in hostile situations, like what was shown in the mission The Wrap Up, when he threatened Steve with a gun to prevent him from arresting Michael. In the Deathwish ending, Dave will call Michael and tell him that he replaced Haines in his TV show, and then thanks Michael for doing jobs for him, before saying farewell, with the two parting on good terms.
Solomon Richards - Solomon and Michael are introduced to each other through Devin Weston. Michael is a big fan of the film producer and views him as his idol, even doubting at first that Devin could arrange for their meeting. The two get along well. Solomon often recites a quote from one of his movies and Michael easily names which one. He accepts Michael's assistance in the production of the film Meltdown and goes on to name him associate producer. This offers more meaning and joy into Michael's life and if he was to call Solomon after the mission Meltdown, he'll declare that working with the film producer was ultimately the best thing to ever happen to him.
Steve Haines - Michael meets Haines during a job to extract Ferdinand Kerimov (aka Mr. K) from the IAA headquarters. He forces him, Trevor and Franklin into his operations and to torture Mr. K into retrieving information onto assassinating an unspecified target. He also gets the protagonists into performing several heists for him. However, more and more suspicion from the Bureau falls on Haines, causing him to become extremely paranoid. He, along with Agent Sanchez, confronts Michael and Agent Norton as he attempts to have them framed and arrested for ruining his career. After an ambush consisting of the IAA, Merryweather and rival FIB forces, Haines attempts to have Michael killed, along with Trevor and Franklin. Fortunately, he decides to spare him and Franklin. However, he wants Trevor dead and tasks Franklin to kill Trevor. In the "Deathwish" ending, if Franklin chooses Option C, Trevor kills Steve while he is shooting an episode of his show at Del Perro Pier, while Michael kills Stretch, an enemy of Franklin and Lamar Davis at the BJ Smith Recreational Center. If Franklin kills Trevor, Haines will congratulate him and breaks all ties with him obeying one final wish, that Weston backs off from wanting Michael dead. Franklin will do the same with Weston about Haines wanting Trevor dead if he kills Michael.
Devin Weston - Michael meets Devin during a meeting with Steve Haines. He first offers the former a deal of producing a film after a heist, and Michael is annoyed by Devin's intitially rude and condescending demeanor during this meeting at Devin's mansion. Devin soon refuses to pay Michael, along with Trevor and Franklin for their jobs, and after Michael refuses to terminate the Meltdown film's production and accidentally gets Devin's lawyer killed, Devin sends a platoon of Merryweather men to kill Michael's family. However, Michael manages to save his family, and he furiously tells Lester over the phone that he wants to come up with plan to murder Devin and get back at Merryweather, effectively starting a personal war between the two men. This incident leads Devin to hire Franklin to murder Michael. If "Deathwish" is chosen, Michael happily accepts Franklin's offer to help him and Trevor. Trevor kills Devin's Merryweather guards, kidnaps Devin from his mansion and shoves him inside the trunk of one of his own cars. The three protagonists meet up to taunt a beaten and bloodied Devin for their victory, before pushing him (with him inside the car trunk) off the cliff into the ocean, killing him.
Michael's Special Ability is called "Area Kill." While active, Michael enters a bullet-time-like effect, allowing him to slow time and gain the advantage in shootouts. By enhancing this skill, you increase its maximum storage capacity, which directly affects its duration. Michael's Special Ability lasts for 30 seconds when the Stat Bar for Special Abilities has been maxed out.
For the list of Michael De Santa's mission appearances, see Michael De Santa/Appearances.
Just like Franklin and Trevor, Michael has received a very positive response from critics and fans of the series, as he was the first protagonist in the Grand Theft Auto series to have a family.
Dan Houser's description of Michael
"Michael, to me, is... Who is he? I know who he is, I'm just trying to... He's the person who is trying to ignore some rather large mistakes that they have made. The person who's trying to forget about certain practical but still selfish decisions that they took. He's a man, also, obsessed by images and by appearances and who, when the world doesn't live up to those images and appearances, doesn't know what to do. He just retreats into his head. What he also is, when we started out... What he kind of evolved into as we began thinking about him and developing him... He was the first character we came up with. He began as the idea of, what happens to a regular GTA protagonist after they retire? Then you think, what would make him retire? He's a man with a big ego and plenty of good values and plenty of bad values."
"A guy who's in his mid-40's and on the cusp of middle age who doesn't know what to do, but made a bunch of money and does not know what to do with it. He's theoretically won, but the spoils of victory aren't necessarily what he imagined. For us that's a very interesting character, unlike what we've done in the past or what we've seen in much entertainment in general, let alone any video games. That was interesting."
- "Fucking A!" - Michael's trademark quote. Said many times through the game.
- "He's a good kid? A good kid? Why? Does he help the fuckin' poor? No; he sits on his ass all day smokin' dope and jerkin' off while he plays that fucking game." - Michael on Jimmy De Santa.
- "Any more bullshit comes out of your mouth, you're gonna learn all about my past glories first hand, you understand?" - Michael threatens Ron.
- "A few weeks ago, I was happily retired, sulking by my swimming pool. And then, my psychotic best friend shows up out of nowhere, to torture me over mistakes I've made, honest mistakes I made over a decade ago!" - Michael venting anger about being stuck in Blaine County and in his old criminal lifestyle, thanks to Trevor.
- "You can't buy love, so here's a down payment." - Michael giving Tracey money
- "You forget a thousand things everyday. Make sure this is one of them." - Michael's favourite movie quote.
- "You wake up one day, and your legs, they just give. You can't run anymore." - Michael explaining to Franklin why he betrayed Trevor and Brad.
- "I've been in this game for a lot of years. I got out alive, that makes me the right age. You want my advice, you give this shit up." - Michael explaining his situation to Franklin.
- "I always thought I was the good guy." - Michael telling Jimmy why he left the criminal lifestyle.
- "I want something that isn't this, you know? This caring about two things at once. I mean, I want to be a good dad, love my family... live the dream... but at the same time... I really want the other stuff, too." - Michael during his last therapy session.
- "I've done a lot of things that I ain't proud of, and I never claim to be an angel. But you meet Trevor, Franklin, you'll swear I am an angel." - Michael during the epilogue of Dead Man Walking.
- Michael was the first protagonist that came to Rockstar's mind when they began the development of Grand Theft Auto V.
- At the age of either 45 or 48, Michael is the oldest protagonist in the GTA series and Rockstar Games, alongside Trevor, who claims to be the same age.
- If Michael kills a family member at his home (e.g. Amanda) or another protagonist, some time later this person will text Michael, and $5000 will be deducted from his account, just like when getting Wasted.
- His favorite radio stations are Los Santos Rock Radio, Vinewood Boulevard Radio, and Radio Mirror Park.
- After firing a pistol and starting to run or walk as Michael, he will be holding it in both hands, unlike Franklin and Trevor.
- Michael's special ability might be a reference to Max Payne, another Rockstar-owned franchise, where the title character possess an ability called Bullet Time, that allow him to slow down time. Both at some point in their lives arrived at their houses only to find out it was under siege by a group of mercenaries while their families hid in horror. Michael even has the same gray suit that Max wears in Max Payne 3. Elements for Michael's ability might also be taken from Rockstar's Red Dead games (which feature a similar ability called Dead Eye) and the adrenaline pills from 3D Universe games.
- Michael's great shooting accuracy also makes him one of the most challenging opponents while playing Darts.
- The quote that Michael uses in Prologue and The Jewel Store Job, "You forget a thousand things everyday, make sure this is one of them.", is from the Solomon Richards movie Arthur Penny's Sanitorium, although slightly modified. The original line is "We forget a thousand things everyday, can't we just make this one of them?"
- Throughout the game, Michael displays a contempt for yoga instructors (who he calls "yogis"). Coincidentally, his voice and motion capture performer Ned Luke is married to a yoga instructor.
- Michael is the only protagonist who can perform Yoga, and everytime the player has him do yoga, he always puts his phone in the radio, and he will always wear a blue shirt, tan pants with blue linings and flip flops.
- Michael Townley is a real person under federal witness protection. He was a former CIA operative who was involved in the 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier, a Chilean ambassador.
- It appears that Michael's drink of choice is whiskey as a whiskey bottle is seen in his house, and in Father/Son, when he sits down by the pool he is drinking a glass of whiskey.
- Michael, along with Trevor, are the only protagonists in the GTA series who their fate is determinant by the player.
- Michael was called "snowbird" by Devin Weston and Gianni. "Snowbird" means someone from the U.S. Northeast, U.S. Midwest, Pacific Northwest, or Canada who spends a large portion of winter in warmer locales such as California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, or elsewhere along the Sun Belt of the southern and southwest United States, Mexico, and areas of the Caribbean. The way that snowbird was used by Devin and Gianni towards Michael was a reference to how he moved to Los Santos from Ludendorff.
- Michael may be of Irish descent, as a number of his possible tattoos are Irish-themed, his former surname, Townley, is of Celtic origin, he has green eyes and his favourite drink is whisky, which are common Irish traits.
- Upon returning to his house, one possible line of dialogue for Michael to shout is "Daddy's back, bitches!", the first line of dialogue in Grand Theft Auto IV.
- On Michael's tombstone in North Yankton it states that he was born in 1965 (making him 48 in 2013), one of the coroners in "Dead Man Walking" describes him as being in his "late 40s", and Michael refers to himself as "the last of the baby boomers", which would back up a birth year of 1965. However, Trevor, Lester, and his son Jimmy all state that he is 45 years old (meaning he was born in 1968).
- If Michael accesses the in-game website PsychicShoutout and speaks with Ms. Tammy, she will reveal that Amanda has already had sex with the yoga instructor (Fabien LaRouche), the tennis coach (Kyle Chavis) and also a fireman, a plumber, a beach lifeguard, a truck driver, a dustman, a gardener as well as a hipster. Michael will angrily reply that they have an open relationship. This is later backed up by Tracey De Santa in the mission Reuniting the Family when Michael drives himself, Tracey and Jimmy De Santa to Dr. Friedlander's office.
- Sometimes when switching to Michael after completing the mission Reuniting the Family, he can be seen walking past a prostitute who asks him for pleasure, to which Michael replies "no thanks, I'm a married man" or "No pro's for me". This is very reminiscent of John Marston, the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, as Marston also replies negatively to any prostitutes in saloons he visits, stating that he is a married man.
- When walking, Michael is slightly slower than Franklin or Trevor, this might be due to him being retired and not as active as he used to be. His voice and motion-capture performer Ned Luke even put on 25 pounds to replicate this.
- Michael's signature color is blue. The reason for this is because it is the favorite color of Ned Luke, Michael's voice and motion-capture actor. He revealed this in a Twitter post. This is seen when using his special ability by screen fading blue or when zooming out to switch characters, while Franklin's ability fades green and Trevor's ability fades orange. Also all characters have different colored scuba suit masks to match their signature color; Michael's scuba suit mask is blue, Franklin's scuba suit mask is green and Trevor's scuba suit mask mask is red, even though his signature color is orange.
- When someone talks to Michael on his right side, he shifts his body right toward that person. This is because in real life, Ned Luke, Michael's voice and motion-capture actor, is deaf in his right ear.
- In an IGN article, released two weeks before the release of GTA V, Michael's name was listed as "Michael Mann". This is most likely an error by the editor and it cannot be ruled as a beta name because Michael's full name was revealed by Rockstar Games.
- A person comments under the film Rum Runner's synopsis on the Classic Vinewood in-game website, under the pseudonym 'michaelds', saying 'I wanted to be Eddie Olson when I was a kid. Just without the handicap fetish'. "michaelds" is most likely a pseudonym for Michael De Santa.
- There's a second comment from 'michaelds' under the film The Many Wives of Alfredo Smith's synopsis, in this one he comments: "This is how movies should be. A plot so tangled that you still don't have a clue what's going on even after watching it five times. Not the dumbed down sickly sweet trash Vinewood pumps out these days".
- At one point during development of GTA V, Michael's name was Albert De Silva.
- The name may have been a reference to the alleged Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo.
- After Isiah Friedlander's death, it is stated on the radio that Michael's name was "Marky De Santo", possibly to hide his identity. Ahron Ward and the police dispatcher also call Michael "Mr. De Santo" and "Michael De Santo", respectively.
- On the Overview page on the Social Club Michael's business card strangely says "Michael Townley" instead of "Michael De Santa". It's also says "entrepreneur", just like Franklin's.
- Michael sleeps for the shortest time of the three characters. When saving the game with Michael, the game skips ahead six hours. Franklin sleeps for eight hours, while Trevor sleeps for twelve. During the time that he lives alone after his family move out, one of his switch scenes will show him waking up screaming and pointing a gun around. He may possibly suffer from nightmares, which could explain his short sleeping time compared to Trevor and Franklin.
- Michael's appearance in the game may be based on Robert De Niro's character in the movie Heat as both characters are professional bank robbers, of Irish decent, dealing with a psychopath (Trevor in-game, Waingro in the movie), and both have a friend in law enforcement.
- A clear reference to the movie Heat is seen in the mission Blitz Play, where Michael, Trevor, and Franklin attempt to rob an armored truck by ramming into it with a large tow truck. In the movie, De Niro's character and his crew attempt to rob the armored van under the same circumstances, but a crew member "Waingro", who Trevor is based upon, messes it up by killing the security guards.
- In the living room of Michael's house, there is a picture of a Labrador, implying the family once owned a dog, or another family member may have owned the dog.
- In Michael's house there is postcard from North Yankton. It is unclear if it is just a reference to the location or if Michael still has family/friends living there and keeps in contact with them.
- Michael's new name, De Santa, is the same last name as Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption in which one of the antagonists was Captain Vicente de Santa of the Mexican Army. Whether this is a coincidence or reference is unknown.
- According to a phone call with Dr. Isiah Friedlander, Michael tried taking behavior medication before the events of the game, but stopped because the dosage was incorrect, causing him to "cry and piss all over himself".
- Also in his mansion, there are a couple of pictures of him and a man similar to Hayden Dubose at the golf club. Another photo shows Michael and Amanda with another (possibly) married couple. These could mean that Michael has established some new neighbor friendships but neither of these neighbors are ever encountered physically, although Hayden posts frequently to Michael's Lifeinvader after certain missions.
- There are a lot of similarity between Michael and Tony Soprano from the TV show, The Sopranos:
- Both Tony Soprano and Michael smoke cigars.
- Both Tony Soprano and Michael go to a shrink, despite the fact that none of them believe in therapy.
- Both of them have two children, a boy and a girl, with whom they have a lot of fights, especially about their job, Tony being a mafia boss and Michael being a robber.
- Both of them have trouble with their wives, and shaky relationships, however, Tony's wife Carmela doesn't cheat on him like Amanda does.
- They both live in a big house with a pool.
- Their language and way of speaking are similar.
- Both Tony Soprano and Michael have anger attacks every once in a while, only Michael doesn't pass out like Tony does.
- Both of them are huge movie fans, and they both prefer classic movies of Hollywood (GTA world, Vinewood), to "new-age" movies.
- Both are known for their similar hypocrisy
- Both played football during their childhood
- Following the release of the first GTA V trailer, there was widespread speculation that Michael was in fact Tommy Vercetti rebooted into the HD Universe and was voiced by his actor Ray Liotta due to similarities. This was proven false, and Michael's actor, Ned Luke, joked about this during the GTA V ComicCon panel.
- Multiple copies of a book titled 'Dadanaissance' can be found on the shelves in the living room of the DeSanta home; 'Dada' is the retroactive name for an European modernist arts movement, and '-naissance' derives from the Latin, meaning 'birth' (cf. 'Renaissance' - rebirth). This implies that Michael has an interest in the arts.
- While wearing the Epsilon tunic other characters, such as Bob Mulét and other barbers, may say Kifflom to him in greeting.