Moved to Christchurch, New Zealand at age 8. Eldest of four brothers, Mark, Stuart, and Nicholas (half brother).
At age 14 became involved in school drama projects. Accepted into two year training program at the Court Theatre (Christchurch) at age 19. By 22 he was accepted into Theatre Corporate (Auckland). He ended up as chairperson in 1985. Between 1982 and 1991, he performed in or directed over 20 plays as a member of the Mercury Theatre (Auckland). He was a co-founder of the Watershed Theatre (Auckland).
Michael is happily married to New Zealand actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand. They have two sons, Jack Louis Ward Hurst (25 Jan. 1997), and Cameron Lane Ward Hurst (2 Dec. 1999).
Michael, his wife, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, and Christian Penny started their own theatre company, The Large Group, in 2003. Their first production was "Hamlet" with Michael starring and also directing. In 2004, they did "Macbeth", with Michael once again playing the lead and directing.
In 2003 Michael received the prestigious Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, and in 2005 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit "for services to film and the theatre".