The new lease on life that Ian McShane's career seems to have found in the last decade or so never stops being amusing to those of us who best remember him as the roguish, massively-coiffed East Anglian antiques dealer in the 1980s/1990s BBC TV series "Lovejoy." Of course, most audiences are entirely unaware of his past, despite his career stretching back half a century that has seen the actor appear in "Magnum P.I" "Roots" and "Dallas" in addition to his extensive stage work.
But a decade ago, McShane started to crop up more and more: firstly in Jonathan Glazer's excellent gangster thriller "Sexy Beast," and then, unforgettably, giving one of the all-time great TV performances, as ruthless saloon owner and whoremonger Al Swearengen in HBO's great, much-missed Western series "Deadwood." McShane picked up a Golden Globe for his trouble, and he's been a big-screen staple ever since, with roles in "Scoop," "We Are Marshall," "Hot Rod" and "Death Race," as well as lending his voice -- one of the richest around -- to "Shrek the Third," "The Golden Compass," "Coraline" and "Kung Fu Panda." He's about to take on his highest profile role to date, as the villainous Blackbeard in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (and, frankly, McShane is the only thing that looks even vaguely interesting there) and word has just come in that the actor's now signed on to another huge tentpole, albeit in a more benevolent role.
Heat Vision report that McShane is the latest to join the cast of Bryan Singer's "Jack The Giant Killer," which starts filming any day now. The film sees the "X-Men" director rebooting the classic fairy tale of "Jack and the Beanstalk" and McShane will play King Brahmwell, the ruler of the kingdom in which the film is set. The plot is put into motion when the king's daughter (newcomer Eleanor Tomlinson) is kidnapped by a giant, threatening the truce between the two worlds, and the titular farm boy Jack (Nicholas Hoult, of "A Single Man" and "X-Men: First Class") leads an expedition to rescue her.
The cast also includes Ewan McGregor, as the captain of the king's guard, who aids Jack in his quest, Stanley Tucci, as a villainous adviser to the king, and Bill Nighy and John Kassir as the two-headed giant leader. McShane's casting mirrors one of his better post-"Deadwood" roles: as the King Saul surrogate on the swiftly canceled NBC series "Kings" and, considering what a good job he did there, we're sure he'll turn out to be one of the highlights in 'Jack' as well.
We're still not sure what Singer will be able to bring to a tale that's already over-familiar (the same issue we have with most of these fairy tale movies, to be honest), but he's at least assembled a fairly high-calibre cast. Filming on the project was initially meant to get underway last summer, but was delayed for nearly a year in order to solve some visual effects issues. They've presumably been ironed out now, as shooting kicks off soon, and it's likely to hit theaters some time in 2012.