Ian McShane Biography

(English Actor, Producer, and Director)

Birthday: September 29, 1942 (Libra)

Born In: Blackburn, United Kingdom

English actor, director, and producer Ian McShane has had an illustrious career in films, on TV, and on stage. While he appeared in lead roles in a few romantic movies in the 1960s, he later focused mostly on character roles and became a fan favorite in villainous roles. Although he initially aspired to be a footballer like his father, an injury later pushed him toward acting. He dropped out of RADA to star in the film The Wild and the Willing. He shot to fame with his title role in the series Lovejoy and with his performance as Al Swearengen in the series Deadwood, winning a Golden Globe award and a Primetime Emmy nomination for the latter. His notable films include Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and the John Wick franchise films. He has also appeared in the iconic series Game of Thrones and has voiced characters in films such as Kung Fu Panda and Shrek the Third.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In September

Also Known As: Ian David McShane

Age: 81 Years, 81 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Gwen Humble (m. 1980), Ruth Post (m. 1970–1976), Suzan Farmer (m. 1965–1968)

father: Harry McShane

mother: Irene McShane

children: Kate McShane, Morgan McShane

Born Country: England

Actors British Men

Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Males

More Facts

education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Childhood & Early Life

Ian McShane was born Ian David McShane on September 29, 1942, in Blackburn, Lancashire, to Harry McShane and Irene (née Cowley). McShane’s father was Scottish and had been a professional footballer with Manchester United, the Blackburn Rovers, and the Bolton Wanderers, before becoming a scout. McShane’s English-born mother was of Irish and English descent.

McShane grew up in Davyhulme, Lancashire, and initially studied at the Stretford Grammar School. He later joined the National Youth Theatre and then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), with Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt as his fellow students.

As a child, he wished to become a footballer like his father. However, after breaking his leg playing football, he ended up with a part in a school production of the play Cyrano De Bergerac, where he first met his teacher and life-long mentor Leslie Ryder. Ryder inspired him to take up acting as a career option and to audition for RADA.

Just a term before graduating from RADA, McShane got his first breakthrough, the lead role in the 1962 film The Wild and the Willing. He had skipped class to attend the audition, lying to his teacher that he had a dentist's appointment.

Continue Reading Below

McShane mostly played complex villains and anti-heroes. He also played the romantic lead in many hit movies of the 1960s and moved on to character roles in the 1970s.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he appeared in movies such as Sky West and Crooked (as Roibin, 1966), If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (as ladies’ man Charlie Cartwright, 1969), the World War II epic The Battle of Britain (as Sgt. Pilot Andy Moore, 1969), and The Last of Sheila (as the game-playing Anthony Wood, 1973).

He also appeared as pirate Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) and as lead dwarf Beith in the dark fantasy movie Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). His other notable big-screen roles include those of Trevor Bruttenholm in the comic book epic Hellboy (2019); Judge Perry in Bolden, the biopic of musician Buddy Bolden (2019); and Winston in the John Wick film franchise (2014, 2017, 2019, 2023).

Ian McShane also had an illustrious career on both American and British TV. One of his most notable TV projects was Lovejoy (for the BBC and the A&E, 1986, 1991-1994), which he both produced and appeared in. McShane appeared in the series as a Suffolk-based antiques dealer named Lovejoy. He also directed many of its episodes.

However, it was McShane's critically-acclaimed performance of the 19th-century brothel-and-bar keeper, Al Swearengen, in the cult HBO western series Deadwood (2004-2006), that made him a household name. He bagged the 2005 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Drama (and Emmy and Screen Actors Guild nominations), among other accolades, for his performance in the series. He reprised his role in the Emmy-nominated telefilm Deadwood: The Movie (2019), which he also executive-produced.

He earned a Golden Globe nomination in the category for Best Actor in a Miniseries for his role as Waleran Bigod in the Emmy-nominated Pillars of the Earth (2010), based on Ken Follett's bestselling historic novel of the same name. He is also known to TV audiences for his performances in series such as American Horror Story (2012), Ray Donovan (2015), and Doctor Thorne (2016).

He appeared in the iconic HBO series Game of Thrones (2016), as Brother Ray. His other notable small-screen roles are that of Heathcliff in the miniseries Wuthering Heights (1967) and Mr. Wednesday in American Gods (2017-2021), the latter based on Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel.

Ian McShane made his professional stage debut in 1962, with Infanticide in the House of Fred August at Arts Theatre, London. He also appeared in the original 1965 production of Joe Orton's Loot.

In 1967, he starred alongside Judi Dench in the play The Promise. The production moved to Broadway in 1967 (Eileen Atkins replaced Dench later). McShane returned to Broadway 4 decades later, with the 40th anniversary staging of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming in 2008, winning a Drama Desk Award as part of the ensemble cast.

McShane was seen as the seductive Darryl Van Horne as he made his musical stage debut in Cameron Mackintosh's The Witches of Eastwick at West End in 2000. He also appeared at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles, through his roles in Harold Pinter's Betrayal and John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence, while he also earned a couple of Los Angeles Drama Critics' Awards for Lead Performance.

Ian McShane has also been a prominent voice artist. He appeared as the eccentric magician Mr. Bobinsky in the animated film Coraline (2009, as the snow leopard Tai Lung in the martial arts comedy Kung Fu Panda (2008), and as Captain Hook in the animated comedy Shrek the Third (2007).

He was the narrator of Grace Jones's 1985 album Slave to the Rhythm. He also voiced sailor William Avery in the award-winning VR short film Age of Sail.

Personal Life

Ian McShane married English actor Suzan Farmer in 1965. The couple divorced in 1968.

McShane then married model Ruth Post on June 8, 1968, at the Kensington Registry Office, London, after a long-distance relationship of 2 years. They had apparently met in Manchester through Ian’s soccer star friend George Best.

McShane had two children with Ruth, their daughter Kate (born in 1971) and their son Morgan (born in 1975). The couple divorced in March 1977.

The same year, he started dating Dutch model and actor Sylvia Kristel after meeting her while filming The Fifth Musketeer, though some sources claim his marriage with Ruth had ended because of this affair. McShane married Gwen Humble on August 30, 1980. The couple live in Venice Beach, California.

McShane also has three grandchildren through his daughter Kate. An avid sports lover, he supports Manchester United Football Club.


Golden Globe Awards
2005 Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama Deadwood (2004)

See the events in life of Ian McShane in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Ian McShane Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com

People Also Viewed

Ray Stevenson Biography
Ray Stevenson
(British, Northern Irish)
Russell Brand Biography
Russell Brand
Jason Statham Biography
Jason Statham
Henry Cavill Biography
Henry Cavill
Tim Curry Biography
Tim Curry
Tom Hardy Biography
Tom Hardy
David Tennant Biography
David Tennant
(British, Scottish)
Daniel Radcliffe Biography
Daniel Radcliffe