Ian McShane


Personal Info

  • Date of Birth: 29 September 1942
  • Place Of Birth:  Blackburn, Lancashire, England, UK
  • Height: 5' 7½" (1.71 m)


Ian McShane was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, to parents Irene (Cowley) and Harry McShane, a soccer player for Manchester United. His father was Scottish and his mother was of English and Irish descent. Ian originally planned to follow in his father’s ‘footballer’ steps, until his high school teacher encouraged him to be an actor. McShane landed a spot at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where, just before graduation, he got his first break, the lead role in The Wild and the Willing in 1962–he later revealed that he had told his acting teacher that he had a dentist’s appointment and ditched class to audition for the role. From a lawless saloon owner to the sexiest of beastly British mobsters, award-winning actor Ian McShane has, time and time again, captured the public’s attention (as well as many plaudits, including from the Hollywood Foreign Press), by playing bad guys, scoundrels and thieves. “The devil has the best tunes!” he has said with a gleam in his eye. McShane was named “TV’s Sexiest Villain” by People Magazine, and was one of GQ’s “Men of the Year,” which described his portrayal of Deadwood’s Al Swearengen as “infectious” and “irresistible.” Classically trained, with a voice like none other, McShane has a range for rogues and other multi-faceted characters on TV, the silver screen, as a voiceover artist and on the boards. McShane most recently reprised his role as Winston (club owner/conceivable ex-assassin), opposite ‘Keanu Reeves’ in John Wick 2 for director Chad Stahelski. He will next be seen as Leland, a retired sheriff with violent tendencies, opposite Patrick Wilson in the gritty drama The Hollow Point for director Gonzalo López-Gallego and Atlas Independent and Relativity. He appears in cameo roles in Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy The Brothers Grimsby for director Louis Leterrier and Sony and in the highly touted Spanish director Daniel Monzón’s El Niño. He will next play the corrupt Judge Perry in Bolden! for writer/director Dan Pritzker in the story about the life of jazz innovator Buddy Bolden and Joe Padgett in Jawbone, the indie boxing film written by Johnny Harris and directed by Thomas Q. Napper. McShane starred as Amphiarus (part priest, part prophet, part warrior),opposite Dwayne Johnson in MGM’s Hercules for director Brett Ratner and played Ron, Nick Frost’s salsa dance instructor in Cuban Fury, a heartfelt comedy for director James Griffiths and starred as the good King Bramwell in Jack the Giant Slayer for director Bryan Singer in New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers modern-day fairytale. McShane was the lead dwarf Beith in Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman, the dark fantasy film from director Rupert Sanders and starred in Disney’s billion-dollar blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as the fearsome pirate Blackbeard opposite Johnny Depp. Highlights of McShane’s previous film roles include the darkly perverse 44 Inch Chest, which McShane starred in, as well as produced and Woody Allen’s Scoop. McShane was singled out for his portrayal of the twisted and handsome Teddy Bass, in the cult indie hit Sexy Beast, which prompted one London critic to name McShane, “The King of Cool.” McShane’s earlier, break-out parts were as the game-playing Anthony in the 1973 cult favorite The Last of Sheila, as Wolfe Lissner in Villain, Fred C. Dobbs in Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You, and as ladies man Charlie Cartwright in If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. In addition to his screen work, McShane has also made his mark as a voiceover artist. His dulcet tones narrated The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and brought life to the eccentric magician Mr. Bobinsky in Coraline, as well as the sinister Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda. Additionally, he lent his rich, resonant voice to The Golden Compass and to the devilish Captain Hook in Shrek the Third. Most recently he voiced the character of Umayya, a greedy and power-hungry merchant in the independent animated feature Bilal and is the narrator of One, the short film written and directed by Emmanuel Solotareff. McShane has also enjoyed a long and diverse career on both British and American television. He will next star as Mr. Wednesday in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the latest event series for Starz, produced by Michael Green and Bryan Fuller and directed by David Slade. “Actor. Icon. And now god. It is a goddamn delight to be collaborating with the incomparable Ian McShane,” said Michael Green. McShane played billionaire Andrew Finney opposite Liev Schreiber on the critically acclaimed Showtime series Ray Donovan and Sir Roger Scatcherd in the mini series Dr. Thorne, written by Julian Fellows and directed by Niall MacCormick for ITV and will be appearing in Game of Thrones, the award-winning series for HBO. He was the very, very bad Santa/serial killer in the critically acclaimed series American Horror Story for F/X; he starred in 2010’s Emmy-nominated The Pillars of the Earth (also for Starz), as the conniving Waleran Bigod, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Mini Series; and starred in the title role in NBC’s Kings as the ruthless King Silas Benjamin. Most notably, in 2004, McShane exploded onto the small screen as Al Swearengen on HBO’s Deadwood for which he earned the coveted Best Actor in a Television Drama Golden Globe Award. His charismatic and alluring performance also led him to 2005 Emmy and SAG nominations for Lead Actor. About playing Swearengen, McShane has said, “there was humanity tempered by reality, and he was never sentimental.” Earlier in his TV career, he formed McShane Productions, and produced the lauded Lovejoy for the BBC and A&E, in which he starred in the title role of the lovable rogue antiques dealer, as well as directed several episodes. Fans of this beloved series, which first aired in 1986, spanned the continents, and made their voices heard and it was successfully brought back by popular demand, and the series aired again from 1991-1994. McShane also had memorable appearances in the U.S. on Dallas and in the saga War and Remembrance. McShane played Sejanus in the mini series A.D., the eponymous Disraeli, produced by Masterpiece Theater and Judas in NBC’s Jesus of Nazareth He appeared in the U.S. landmark blockbuster Roots and brought pathos to the disabled Ken Harrison in Whose Life Is It Anyway? McShane was the smoldering Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and also appeared in Harold Pinter’s Emmy-Award-winning The Caretaker. McShane is an accomplished and award-winning stage actor. In 2008, he celebrated two anniversaries: the 40th Anniversary revival of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming on Broadway and the 40th Anniversary of his Broadway debut. He made his musical debut in the West End production of The Witches of Eastwick, as the devilish Darryl Van Horne. In Los Angeles, he starred in a trio of productions at The Matrix Theatre, including the world premiere of Larry Atlas’ Yield of the Long Bond, (for which he received the 1984 Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award), Inadmissible Evidence and Betrayal. His other stage work includes roles as Hal in the original cast of Joe Orton’s Loot, as The Admirable Crichton at the Chichester Festival, as Tom in The Glass Menagerie and as Charlie in The Big Knife. McShane’s West End debut in 1967 was in The Promise, where he co-starred with Judi Dench and Ian McKellen. The play was brought to Broadway in 1968.


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