Journalism Archive

Much of what I have written over the years has been lost or never filed.
What I have posted here is a selection of some of the journalism I have written over the years

Ian McShane - I don't regret my wild days

First published in Woman's Own, 1990

The star of TV's Lovejoy has done it all...drink, drugs and an affair with soft-porn queen Sylvia Kristel. But bad boy Ian McShane has put all that behind him now. Married to lovely actress Gwen Humble, he's happier than ever and drinks only mineral water. Brendan Martin reports


Thirteen years ago, handsome - heart-throb Ian McShane was filling the gossip columns with wild tales of drunken nights on the - town, not to mention an assortment of juicy stories about his passionate affair with Emmanuelle actress - and soft-porn - queen Sylvia Kristel.

Today, though, the three-times-married actor reckons those hell-raising days are long gone and best forgotten. As he celebrates 10 happy years of marriage to American-born actress Gwen - Humble, - he - says - that he's never been happier.

"Gwen and I have a very good relationship. I still love her very much. She's no bimbo-she might be blonde, mid-Western and gorgeously American, but underneath it all there's a strong personality.

"When we met I was far from the reformed character you see before you now. I was running around like a headless chicken," he admits ruefully.

"I had no home, no place to call my own. I just lived wherever I was working at the time and enjoyed as good a time as possible.

"These days, I don't do any of those silly things," he says, sprawling across the small but functional couch - in his caravan on the set of - the new series of Lovejoy.

Despite the 5am start to his day, Ian McShane is looking fit and relaxed. The dark gypsy locks and twinkling blue eyes make him look younger than his 48 years.

Dressed casually in black jeans and leather jacket, McShane sips the coffee supplied by the location catering unit. Not so many years ago he would have reached for the vodka bottle the moment the cameras stopped rolling. Today, as he reflects on his adventure-filled life, he reveals that he drinks nothing stronger than Ballygowan Irish spring water.

"I was filming a Dick Francis thriller in Ireland last year and I was introduced to Ballygowan there. I loved it. Now they ship it out to me wherever I am. It's all I drink nowadays."

The 'designer' water is the sign that Ian McShane has finally grown up. The star, who returns to our screens in a new series of adventures of TV's favourite roguish antique dealer Lovejoy on Sunday 6 January, admits that maturity passed him by until just a few years ago.

"I was well into my 40s before I stopped and asked myself, 'How long can I keep sucking my thumb and scratching my head?'"

He put his life of excess behind him three years ago when, with the help of his wife Gwen, McShane decided the days and nights of heavy drinking and drug-taking had to end.

'I never liked the taste- I - drank to get drunk'

"I realised I couldn't do it anymore. I wasn't having a good time. I was about to destroy myself, my marriage and everything around me. I wasn't drinking because I was incredibly happy or terribly sad - I was drinking because I liked getting drunk."

By the time he met Gwen, he had already paid a high price for his excessive lifestyle. His marriages to actress Suzan Farmer and model Ruth Post had both ended in divorce. And the failure of his second marriage had estranged the actor from his two children - daughter Kate, now 20, and son Morgan, 16.

"I don't have a great relationship with them. I hope someday I might have but if it doesn't happen, then that's it," he says, quickly quelling any unwanted sentiment.

"My son was only two when I walked out of the - - marriage and we're still working on our relationship. Perhaps as he gets older we'll be able to work something out. But at the end of the day all I can say is, 'You were a kid at the time, it was nothing to do with you - now where do we go from here?'"

McShane's hopes of improving ties with his children grew stronger with the arrival from the United States of his daughter Kate, who is studying to be a fashion journalist in London. Her presence in Britain comes at a time when the heart­throb of millions of women has bought his first UK home in over 15 years - a luxury flat in London's prestigious Holland Park area.

"To a certain extent I'm trying to build bridges with my children, but not so that they can knock them down again. I won't stretch out my hand to have it slapped down."

The rift between McShane and his children is in direct contrast to the closeness between the actor and his parents. He is unstinting in his praise for them and for the loyalty they have shown him throughout his turbulent life.

"My behaviour in the past may have been hurtful to my parents because I was just gambolling along doing my own thing without thinking about anyone else. But they've never been anything but supportive. There are times when I think, 'When they read that, they must have been fed up'. But we never talk about it.''
More than 11 years have passed since his very public two-year affair with Sylvia Kristel but his heart­throb label has stuck fast.

"When you have a relationship which is as widely reported as the one I had with Sylvia, you have to accept that people will give you labels."

That Sylvia herself publicly credited McShane with being the first man to make her enjoy sex only added to his reputation.

"People saw it as having a relationship with someone they called the queen of soft porn, but that wasn't what it was about. Sylvia was a great girl and we had a good time. I don't regret our relationship at all.
"In the end it just burnt itself out. It was all a very long time ago, but curiously people still want to talk about it."

However widely publicised his affair with Sylvia Kristel was, one person who seemed not to have heard about it when they met was Gwen Humble.

"She didn't have a clue who I was, let alone anything about my reputation-which was just as well because at least I was in with a chance," he says.

The couple met when filming the comedy Cheaper To Keep Her on the former cruise liner the Queen Mary. One of Ian's earliest encounters with Gwen was when the two of them were playing a love scene together. For perhaps the only time in his life, the great lover, both on screen and off, admits that he was embarrassed.

"I never mind doing love scenes. Usually when I play one I'm very practical. I don't get personally involved. But with Gwen I was shy about kissing her. I'd never felt that way about an actress before. I really liked her."

So much so that they were married in 1980 on board the Queen Mary. These days, Ian and Gwen commute between their luxury penthouse apartment overlooking Hollywood's Sunset Strip and their new London hideaway.

But he insists that, despite having a home in the heart of Hollywood, he shies away from the usual round of star-studded pool­ side parties.

"I'm not part of the Hollywood set or any other set," he says. "Hollywood's a great place to go and visit but if you take it too seriously and gauge your talent by it, you'd probably end up slitting your wrists.

"Luck has a lot to do with acting, no matter how talented you are. My philosophy is, 'Don't take any­ thing too seriously and enjoy it while you can'."

Judging by his own philosophy, then, Ian McShane is a very lucky man. Since joining RADA at the age of 18, he has been out of work only when taking time off for holidays.

His list of credits includes the pick of television blockbusters on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Disraeli, War and Remembrance, Jesus Of Nazareth, Roots, Miami Vice, Minder and, most recently, Dallas. He has also starred in nearly two dozen big-screen movies.

It was when he was a young struggling actor, desperate to make his name in Britain, that McShane's career as a drinker started. One of his earliest drinking buddies was actor Dudley Sutton, who plays Lovejoy's bow-tied, check­ suited accomplice, Tinker Dill.

"That was part of the acting world in those days. You did your rehearsals, then went out and got drunk. Vodka was all I drank. I never actually liked the taste of it. I drank to get drunk. And that's not the point. You're meant to taste it!"

Despite all the drunken nights, McShane continued to be in great demand with producers and directors.

Today he looks back and claims that not all the jobs he undertook were the best career moves he could have made. "There were some jobs I should have turned down and others I wasn't available to do because I didn't put myself about in the right places. But there's no point in crying about that now. I just lived my life the way I wanted to live it. People ask me if I had a good time. Did I ever! I had a wonderful time - what I remember of it."

Apart from the seemingly bottomless vodka lake he drank from, Ian McShane also dabbled with drugs.

"I even did coke for several years. It was terrific but in the end none of it worked. Now I don't miss it. I don't even think about it. Although I do still smoke cigarettes - and they are probably the worst drug of all."

McShane says he's not ready to give up smoking yet but feels he has made one small concession to his health by switching from untipped to tipped cigarettes. And he concedes that keeping himself in shape is now a priority.

'Nobody wants to see a fat star on their screens'

"I work out every day for - half-an-hour with weights. I feel in a way that you've got a responsibility. Nobody wants to see a fat, over­ weight star on their screens.

"During all the time I was drinking and taking drugs, I never worried about dying. I don't want to die yet, though. There are too many things I have to do."

Directing at least one episode of the third Lovejoy series is high on his list, and this is already in the planning stages.

The current, second, series comes after a five-year disagreement between the co-producers of the show over contractual details. That dispute is now resolved and McShane sees several years of the series ahead.
Lovejoy has a special place in Ian McShane's heart because it was through his efforts that the series came to the screen in the first place. He fell for the character when an American fan sent him "a fat tome on the life of Boswell" and a slim book - of Lovejoy.

Boswell was left on a shelf to gather dust while McShane devoured the tale of the East Anglian antique wheeler-dealer. On his return to England, he contacted the author, Jonathan Gash, and bought the rights to use the characters on television.

"The first series was well received but time has exaggerated how popular it was. I hope that people will like the show even more this time than first time around," says McShane.

''If there is a show I'm going to be known for, I wouldn't mind it being Lovejoy," he confesses. "He's my favourite character. And when my time is up, if the papers' headlines report my death, 'Lovejoy dies', I wouldn't be unhappy."



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© 2008 Brendan Martin

Brendan Martin - Media Trainer and Journalist