Michael "Captain Mike" Clark was the Captain of the tugboat, Chelsea. He is a drunken, outspoken man who, due to an overbearing father, became a "Tugboat Man" at the age of 7. He shows a great passionate of art, covering much of his chest with tattoos; though it is unknown if he has more on his lower body.
In 1930, Clark hires Benjamin Button onto his crew at two dollars a day doing odd-jobs. Sometime in the 1930s, he takes Benjamin Button to a brothel after he mistakes him as a virgin old man.
In 1936; Clark, along with the Chelsea's crew, leaves New Orleans for Russia for a salvage job. They remain as salvage until World War II begins, where Clark and most of the crew (excluding the cook) join the US Navy as a Salvage and Rescue Crew.
Clark is killed after taking heavy machine gun fire from an enemy submarine to the chest, and loses the Chelsea after it loses control and smashes into the said submarine; sinking them both. He is later seen at the end of the movie, shirtless and smiling in front of the Chelsea.
-Mike Clark's dying wordsMike Clark met Benjamin Button sometime in the 1930s at a dockyard in New Orleans called "Poverty Point", angry that one of his crew hands hadn't shown up. He offered anyone two dollars for day of work, but gets no answer. he continues to ask, until finally Benjamin happily accepted.
Clark, a bit skeptical on having Benjamin on his boat, asks him if he has his "Sea-legs". Soon, Clark hired Benjamin and they head out to the river. Benjamin begins doing odds and ends, earning a hard-days pay, Captain Mike showing him everything. Doing such chores as cleaning up bird poop, throwing out chum and sweeping the decks; Benjamin and Mike soon become good friends,
One day, Clark invites Benjamin into the Chelsea's wheelhouse. He drunkenly asks him if he can have an erection; but Benjamin (Having a child's mind) doesn't understand and eventually Clark gives up and asks him if he has ever "Had a woman". Benjamin replies with a no, Clark thinking that Benjamin is an old man who has never had sex, invites him to go with him to a brothel in New Orleans.It is there that Clark reveals that he has a deep passion in tattoo artistry by taking off his shirt and pants, but not his long johns. A woman calls them in to the prostitutes, where he is taken by one and Benjamin is taken by another.
The next day, Benjamin surprises Clark with a visit; this time with his friend Daisy. Hungover and half asleep, Clark asks them what they wanted from him. Benjamin replies that he wants to take his friend Daisy out on the river. Clark complains that he could lose his license, but then warms up to the idea and takes them out.
In 1936, The tugboat Chelsea was assigned to work for a Moran Brother's Salvage Company working a long-term work engagement of three years. It was refitted with a diesel engine and given a new wench; They sailed around the Atlantic seaboard, Newfoundland, Bentham Bay, Glasgow, Liverpool, Norway, and eventually Russia. New crew members also arrived: Cookie, the ship's cook; Rick and Vic Brody; John Grimm; and Pleasant Curtis. While in Russia, the crew stayed in the a hotel called "The Winter Palace".
Though not much is seen of Mike Clark or the crew, he is seen at the beginning mentioning that Benjamin had gotten taller and looked younger; though Benjamin jokingly responds that he merely drank to much. He also is seen in "The Winter Palace" talking about hummingbirds, calling them "A freaking' miracle".
On December 7th, 1941; shortly after the events of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Navy asked the crew of the Chelsea to join as a Salvage and Rescue ship. Before going to war, Clark asked his crew if they were willing to go to war. Cookie, the ship's chef, said he wife was dying and that he wanted to see her one last time; leaving the ship without a chef.
Benjamin Button, now about 17 in age, offers to be the new ship's chef as he had been cooking for himself as long as he could remember. Clark, a little nervous about Button's moodiness, accepts the offer and leaves Russia with a saying "We're going' to war, gentlemen". They are assigned a new crew member, Chief Gunner Dennis Smith of the US Navy, full-blooded Cherokee and overly patriotic.
Sometime during World War II, they stumble upon a transport carrier carrying over 1,300 men that had been attacked by a submarine and split by a torpedo. The crew members, searching for survivors are unaware that an enemy submarine has arrived until seen by John Grimm. Clark calls the crew to battle stations and hands Grimm a handgun before taking the wheel. Clark then shuts off all the lights, exception to the spotlight, and with a deep breath sends the Chelsea charging at the submarine.A firefight soon breaks out as machine gun fire bombards the ship before finally attacking the wheelhouse and striking Clark four times in the chest. The Chelsea, now out of control, crashes into the side of the submarine causing torpedoes to explode prematurely and the submarine to erupt into flames. As both the Chelsea and the enemy submarine sinks, Benjamin Button runs up to the wheelhouse to the dying Mike Clark. He tears open his shirt, revealing the bullet holes and blood remarking that "They shot the hell outta me paint."
Button attempts to sooth him by telling him that heaven is waiting for him, but Clark speaks back saying "You could swear, curse the fates, but in the end; you have to let go" and takes a dying breath as the tugboat sinks. Benjamin, rescued by a passing US Navy ship; says goodbye to the dead crew members: Dennis Smith, John Grimm, Pleasant Curtis, Vic Brody, and Mike Clark; along with all 1323 men who were killed on the transport carrier.
- The end of the movie speech, reveals a smiling Michael Clark; shirtless showing off his tattoos in front of the Chelsea's wheelhouse as Benjamin Button says "...Some are artists..."
- When Mike Clark appears for the first time, he offers anyone two dollars to work for him. A sailor sitting next to Benjamin and Mr. Daws says "He never pays", but this proves to be a lie as Benjamin says "I worked a job that I'd gladly done for free"
- Technically, When Mike is drunk; it is illegal to drink alcohol during the Great Depression as was prostitution.