Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ian McShane - Talks about fighting Andy Samberg

Actor rides from saloon to 'Hot Rod'

When clouds of uncertainty gathered over the future of "Deadwood,” Ian McShane was ready to ride for sunnier territory.

So, he moved from playing a cutthroat frontier saloon impresario to the role of abusive modern-day stepfather, which doesn't sound like a lighter turn at all, until it's known that his latest film is "Hot Rod,” an outrageous comedy about an Evel Knievel wannabe from executive producer Lorne Michaels and a new generation of "Saturday Night Live” stars.

"Oh yeah, it was a lot of fun. Always, working with fresh young talent. They're good,” McShane said in his familiar, breathy baritone during a recent hotel press gathering.

The classically trained British actor has long plied his trade in more serious roles on stage, screen and television, often portraying villains, the most dastardly being Al Swearengen, ruthless and larcenous proprietor of the Gem Saloon, who ruled the muddy mining camp of Deadwood through violence, crookery and fear — until production of the award-winning HBO series was suspended after two seasons. "Deadwood” creator David Milch had put the innovative, Shakespearean-styled Western on hold to launch a new series about a dysfunctional surfing family called "John From Cincinnati.”

Having won a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy nomination and enhanced international star status for his work on "Deadwood,” McShane was not happy about the rude interruption. But was that any reason to turn to such cinematic silliness as "Hot Rod,” when so many more substantial roles beckon?

"Well it's nice to be offered something,” he said modestly. "I mean, I'd just finished ‘We Are Marshall,' and after doing that, which was a rather weepy movie, we heard that ‘Deadwood' had been canceled. So, it was either laugh or cry. I guess it was better to laugh, so this came at a perfect time.”

"Hot Rod” stars "Saturday Night Live” regular Andy Samberg as Rod Kimble, a 20-something case of arrested emotional development who has no job, still lives at home and dreams only of becoming a stuntman like his late father, a Knievel test-rider who died in his prime — or so says Rod's mom (Sissy Spacek). When Rod's not risking his neck jumping milk trucks on his moped, he is constantly challenging his stepfather, Frank (McShane), to basement brawls in order to earn his respect. Frank cheerfully beats the stuffing out of Rod every time, taunting him all the while.

When Frank's heart goes bad, requiring an expensive operation, Rod sets out to raise the money by making the jump of his life, so that he can get Frank well and finally kick his rear end.

Samberg, 28, admits McShane, 64, was a little daunting during their rec-room battles.

"McShane was in great shape,” he said. "I would be winded, and he'd be like, ‘Come on, come on,' and you're just flippin' each other around rollin' on the floor, and it was cool. ... I got banged up a bunch, and I'm sure he did, too. But of course, he doesn't complain about it because he's a professional.”

McShane agreed. "Oh, I whacked him around,” he said with a devilish Swearengen grin. "Well, he's a wimp, you know? Get used to it. No, he's delightful. I had a good time. ... I hadn't done any physical comedy, so you learn a lot. I think whatever age you are, you stop learning, give it up. Don't go to work anymore. ... What, ominous pause there? That was profound. I like that.”

McShane will get serious again in the upcoming horror thriller "Case 39,” playing a good-guy detective opposite Renee Zellweger, followed by the adventure-fantasy "The Dark is Rising,” which features him in an Obi-Wan Kenobi-like character. Additionally, his distinctive voice can be heard in the animated features "Kung Fu Panda,” "Coraline” and "His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass.” Then he returns to Broadway in a fall revival of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming.”

So, "Deadwood” may seem far behind him now, but McShane isn't sure the Dakota dust has settled yet. There is still a long chance, he said, that two final two-hour episodes will be filmed — if Milch and HBO don't wait too long, and too many cast members aren't committed elsewhere.

"I'd like to think we'll do it, because it was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had working in any medium,” he said. "And you have to think about all those people (in the cast). It was too sudden; it was done in a weird way. It was all sort of suddenly taken away from you. ... It was a little cruel on everybody. But that's showbiz, right?”


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