Born in Blackburn, England, Ian McShane is the son of Scottish-born professional soccer player Harry McShane, who played for Manchester United, and Irene McShane. He grew up in Urmston, Manchester and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
McShane was first married to Suzan Farmer from 1965 to 1968, and then later to Ruth Post, whom he divorced in 1976. The following year, he began a turbulent five-year relationship with Sylvia Kristel after meeting her on the set of The Fifth Musketeer. He is now married to actress Gwen Humble.
While McShane became famous in the United Kingdom for his dashing antique dealer role in the BBC drama series Lovejoy, he also enjoyed fame in the United States as English cad Don Lockwood in the soap opera Dallas. His distinct portrayal eventually landed him more TV roles, including John Madson on Madson, Alan Cooper-Fozzard on Trust and Al Swearengen on Deadwood, where he earned the coveted Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Drama for his versatile performance.
McShane’s performance in Deadwood also earned him a string of critical acclaim, including the Television Critics Association's annual award for "Individual Achievement in Drama" and being selected as one of GQ's "Men of the Year." For the same role, he earned a 2005 Emmy nomination as well as 2005 and 2006 SAG nominations for Lead Actor, and was voted "TV's Sexiest Villain."
After Deadwood, McShane provided the voice of several animated film characters such as evil snow leopard Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda, Captain Hook in Shrek, and Mr. Bobinsky in Coraline. Subsequently, he was also cast as King Silas Benjamin in NBC’s drama series, Kings.