Ian McShane was born in Blackburn, England. His father is Harry McShane, a professional football player for Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers.
He started out in the 1960's, in small roles on the television series' 'Police Woman' and 'Matt Helm,' and in films like, 'If this is Tuesday this must be Belgium', 'Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You' and 'Battle of Britain.'
In the mid-eighties he bought the television rights to Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy novels. He produced and starred in 6 seasons of ‘Lovejoy’ for the BBC from 1986 through to 1994. The show was also shown in America on the A&E network.
He has made a notable comeback in film appearances in recet years, 'Sexy Beast, 'Shrek 3', ' appeared as a Russian negotiator in the 'West Wing'and has attained notoriety for his portrayal of villainous-yet-lovable Al Swearengen on the HBO series, 'Deadwood.'
He has been married to his current wife, actress Gwen Humble, since 1981. He has two children from a previous marriage, Kate (born in 1971) and Morgan (born in 1975).