Ian McShane has come a long way from 'Lovejoy'. With the home release of 'Hercules', he talks to HuffPostUK about getting the chance to play the good guy for once, and why he's not appearing in the next 'Pirates of the Caribbean' film...
We usually see you playing the bad guy, but in 'Hercules' you are almost the comic relief. Did director Brett Ratner initially want you to play the bad guy?
I met Brett nearly two years ago. I was in England and Brett was passing through and said, ‘Can I meet you? I’d love you to do Hercules’. He sent me the script and then I said, ‘Do you want me to play the bad guy?’. He said, ‘No, I want you to play Amphiaraus’. I said, ‘Great. That sounds like fun’. My old mate John Hurt played the king which was great.
It’s a big film, but you’re used to that right?
Yeah. I’ve done a lot of these big movies recently. There was 'Jack the Giant Slayer', 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and 'Snow White and the Huntsmen'. 'Hercules' was scheduled to be shot over 19 weeks, but we went for 21. I’m used to the big movies, but we couldn’t get away. Every Friday night we’d work late into the night, into early Saturday mornings. I think I got back to London twice. I shouldn’t complain, but we have a saying, ‘They pay me to wait. We do the acting for free.’
After all of that hard work what did you think when you saw the finished film?
Brett did a great job. When I saw it I was impressed he was able to bring it down to 95 minutes, the action doesn’t stop, it’s not boring, it doesn’t have five false endings, there’s just one ending. It doesn’t go on and on. Everybody looks good in it, it’s fun, charming for a sword and sandal epic. It was a lot of fun.
Amphiaraus is part of Hercules’ trusted team of mercenaries. Can you talk a bit more about not playing the bad guy, but being the character who gets plenty of laughs?
Don’t get me wrong, I like playing the bad guy. The bad guy usually gets all of the best lines. I’m just going off to do another movie, Bolden!, set in New Orleans at the turn of the century. I play the bad, white guy. In Hercules, I liked the character. He has a good relationship with Dwayne Johnson’s character. Brett was a very committed director and the sets were spectacular.
Q: I hear Dwayne, Rufus Sewell and the other actors starved themselves with special diets and worked out relentlessly, but you didn’t have to do that.
A: No, I didn’t have to do any of the dieting or have to work out in the gym every morning for three hours. I’d get to the set, put my costume on, put make-up on, had a couple of scars and I’d be done in 12.5 minutes. I’d then sit and read a nice book or watch Sky Sports on tele for a few hours until they were ready.
So, you didn’t ask Dwayne for any muscle-building tips.
No. I lost that desire long ago (laughs). I don’t want to be in Expendables 5. You can keep those kind of movies. This was fun. My character was smart. He knows himself.
There’s a lot of action scenes. Was it physically exhausting? Did you get hurt?
No, it was fun. The big action scenes with extended sequences they use stuntmen. There’s a technology now called face texturizing where you sit in like a dental chair and they ask you to pull all of these silly faces, they photograph that and they can add that on to your double. It’s amazing.
Do you remember seeing your first Hercules movie?
Yeah. I think it was back in 1962. Joe Levine was very smart. He was the big promoter of his day and bought the Italian movie, dubbed it and then spent twice as much money advertising it and made a fortune with it and the sequels. They deliberately made them a bit crummy like the Italian westerns were.
Are you a fan of big action films like Hercules?
Yeah. It’s a big fun movie. Now, we also have these big superhero movies. With Hercules, there’s action and humour in it. I remember I was making a film recently in Salt Lake City and I had a day off, went to a shopping mall and thought I’d go and see a movie. That last Spider-Man was on. I remember I lasted an hour. It was so noisy and went on and on and on. There was ending after ending. They don’t know how to finish. There’s overkill. In Hercules, Brett struck the right balance. It’s 95 minutes. It’s about right. How much can people take?
Your father was a successful soccer player. He played for teams, including Manchester United. Did you want to follow in his footsteps, or was acting always your dream job?
I was never at my dad’s level. I loved the game and still love the game. I played at a high level when I was 11 or 12-years-old, but I had two team-mates who were better than I was. I knew then. I was offered a tryout, but I figured, ‘Why would I try out for a club where my father played if I knew I wasn’t at that level’. I had a teacher at school who said, ‘We are going to do a play next year and you’re in it’. He said, ‘You should try out for the Royal Academy as an actor’. I did and got in. I was 17. My Mum wasn’t too happy, but it worked out OK.
Will you be in the next 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movie?
No. They’re too cheap to have us in that. It will cost them a lot of money. I saw one of the producers of it at the Hercules premiere and he said, ‘We’re doing a new Pirates’ and I said, ‘Yeah, but you haven’t invited me back or Bill Nighy. We’re too expensive aren’t we? We cost you too much money. You have an unknown Norwegian directing it, an unknown writer, but probably Johnny (Depp) will be able to buy another island’ (laughs).
'Hercules' is released on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and DVD on 1 December. Watch the trailer below...