My mom loves Lovejoy. I love Lovejoy, but I don’t watch it when I’m not with my mom, and I love Deadwood more. You, reader, may enjoy Ray Donovan instead.
Whatever your angle is: you almost definitely love British actor Ian McShane, for some reason or another, even if you don’t know his name. It’s not just his 100+ IMDB acting credits in side parts and movies, but the fact that he’s managed to get cast in a number of major, disparate roles in popular series, that makes his long career so unusual. Since the late ‘60s, McShane’s been keeping his incomparable brand going.
Game of Thrones nerds may be aware that McShane is about to give that show the McShane Treatment in its upcoming sixth season. It’s predicted that he’ll be introducing the character of Septon Meribald, a kindly clergyman who takes in the presumed-dead “Hound” and nurses him back to health.
In celebration of this next big step in the illustrious career of the Great McShane, I want to investigate some of the other creative endeavors McShane has made better by showing up unexpectedly.
Scoop is a pile of steaming late-Woody-Allen shit that is a lame vehicle for Allen to get in quality on-screen time with Johansson — then, his primary muse — and fold some Curse of the Jade Scorpion-esque magic plotlines into the mix. Luckily, there’s a touch of McShane to brighten the mood. He plays the ghost of a private eye who — on the boat to the Land of the Dead — gets a tip that Hugh Jackman’s aristocratic playboy character is actually a serial killer, and appears to Johansson — a journalism student/wannabe private eye in the world of the living — to warn her. It’s that definitive late Woody Allen magical-realism whackness (a la Midnight in Paris), but McShane can sell anything.
There are no direct clips of this on YouTube, but this VHS-looking Spanish TV montage with Muzak bossanova overlay shows a couple of choice frames at the beginning:
Hot Rod (2007)
Fans of classic Samberg vehicle Hot Rod know that McShane turns in one of his most memorable film performances here as Samberg’s demeaning asshole stepfather. Just turn the McShane switch on, and he becomes the Rip Torn to Samberg’s Tom Green in Freddy Got Fingered.
Agent Cody Banks (2003)
Yeah, dog. McShane is the primary villain in this classic kiddie-Bond Frankie Muniz vehicle — remember when every action-comedy was basically a Bond parody? — which means he gets to use his natural upper-class British accent. You can check him out around 1:13 here, marveling at some moves Muniz used to wash some bullies that were straight out the CIA handbook. McShane mainlined the intrigue straight to Banks’ main artery.
The Golden Compass (2007)
Fans of Philip Pullman’s books and the movie — though I’m not sure if the latter category of people exist — know that the tightest characters are the armored polar bears the series’ hero Lyra encounters and allies with on her way to spring imprisoned children from Bolvangar. In the crappily-CGI’d, lackluster film version, a saving grace is McShane lending Ragnar Sturlusson, the bear king, his resonant, imposing voice. McShane to the rescue, again!
John Wick (2014)
McShane delivers incredible fire as owner and keeper of the peace in the hitman-only hotel, the Continental. Sometimes he has to do some dirty work to preserve the hitman code. Just icing on the cake for an unbeatable movie with an unbeatable cast. Don’t worry, he’ll be back for John Wick 2.
What was even going on in music in 1992? Nirvana or something? BORING. Well into his eight-year stint as art dealer and detective Lovejoy on the popular BBC TV series, McShane mixed up the music scene by releasing a covers album of his favorite pop and singer/songwriter tunes. Man, McShane’s voice is a surprising, theatrical high baritone — it’s a wonderful thing to hear.
Below, he takes on Roxy Music’s exotic, synth-drenched masterpiece of ‘80s pop “Avalon.” Yeah, there’s also an “Every Breath You Take”, which he kind of delivers like a song from Oliver! Don’t even worry about it.
Ain’t no one McShane like McShane.