It’s all working out nicely for Ian McShane
An actor since the early 1960s, Cuban Fury star Ian McShane has been a familiar presence on our screens big and small (Lovejoy anyone?) for decades – and now he’s a Hollywood star. Not a bad for the unassuming son of a Man Utd footballer
Ian McShane: It all happened very quickly. Then I got a movie. I just rolled into it”
Hats off to Ian McShane. He’s never exactly been a Johnny Depp-sized celestial entity. But he’s never slipped from public consciousness. For half-acentury – can it really be so long? – he’s been among the grittiest and most manly of gritty, manly charmers.
Raised in Manchester, the son of a distinguished footballer, he turned up at Rada when that institution was finally opening itself up to (ahem) “the regions”. Gosh, he’s got staying power and durability. And yet he’s somehow managed to remain much the same throughout the decades. Long before the weedy Downton Abbey took over Sunday nights, a roguish, dodgy antique dealer named Lovejoy was soothing viewers back into the working week. A decade ago, he dominated as a rougher, scarier, swearier type of scoundrel in Deadwood . He always radiates charisma. He always dominates the screen.
This week we can see him as a gruff dance teacher in the very agreeable British comedy Cuban Fury . Nick Frost plays the larger gentleman he attempts to coax back into Salsa action.
“It was a funny character,” McShane rumbles. And that is the only word. “From the description of the character, it sounded fine and it was. Films don’t always turn out as you’d expect. This did. It’s very funny. It’s down-to- earth. They’re all hilarious. Chris O’Dowd is hilarious. And the script is great. So it has worked out well.” (As you’ll see, he uses variations on that phrase a lot.)
He had an easier time of it than Mr Frost, I assume.
“Well, Nick had all the hard work to do. I didn’t have to dance. As long as you think that I know what I am doing, then it’s fine. Ha ha!”
Let’s go back to the beginning. McShane never seems to have been out of work for as much as a nanosecond. He worked in movies throughout the 1960s. In the 1970s, he played Disraeli and Shakespeare on the telly, a popular device of the time. Then, in the late 1980s, along came the iconic Lovejoy . Along the way, he managed three marriages – the third of which has lasted happily for over three decades – and a three-year relationship with Sylvia Kristel, star of Emmanuelle . How did this extraordinary existence come to pass?
“I was just at school, he says. “My dad played for Manchester United and I grew up right outside the ground. I had a teacher who put me in all the plays. He came to my parents and said: ‘He might be good at this professionally.’ He arranged an audition at Rada. Three months later, I was living down in London. It all happened very quickly. Then I got a movie. I just rolled into it.”
I can believe that. He has the amiable presence of a man who would never toil when he could roll. It’s an unusual background from which to spring forth. Harry McShane, his dad, was no mean player. He scored 20 goals in 207 games for the Reds and helped them to the First Division title in 1952. Did McShane ever fancy himself as a footballer?