Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

Ian McShane
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Ian Mcshane - The Antiques Rogue Show

Sunday Express 15th December 1991

There is no shortage of women eager to offer sexy, shady Lovejoy a bed for the night. But, as Lesley Salisbury discovered when she invited Ian McShane's naughty alter ego to stay, there's a whole lot of mayhem that follows in his wake. Photograph by Terry O'Neill

Just imagine: there he is, stretched out on your king-size bed, deep in the country, bedroom eyes a-twinkle and sleep the last thing on his mind, the sexiest, naughtiest rogue in East Anglia. The thinking woman's crook at bedtime.

And there you are. Not on the other side of the bed. But on the other side of the world, working in Los Angeles, The ultimate bad dream. It happened to me. I'd become Lovejoy's long-distance landlady. The BBC rented our farmhouse in March and for six months the place was swarming with actors, directors, producers, stuntmen, stand-ins, painters, carpenters and designers filming the new series of Lovejoy (starting next month on BBC1). Sightseers came from miles around and teenagers peeked through the electric gates, desperate for a glimpse of Lovejoy's alter ego, Ian McShane, who puttered around country lanes in Miriam, the ancient Morris Minor, and flashed off down the motorway in a blur of silver Jaguar when work was done.

At first, the closest I got to all the action was by transatlantic phone.

"We're turning the drawing-room into a very tasteless room," said the BBC designer.
"Your furniture will have to go. Most of it, anyway," he added with a sniff.

"You should have been here today," said my father, acting caretaker-cum-tea maker. "There must have been 200 people in and out. Cars, lorries, the canteen. You should see the mud! The props people fired a gun through the kitchen ceiling. It's amazing what they can do. I don't think you'll be able to see the bullet-hole now they've painted. Don't worry."

"Don't worry about anything," Ian McShane wrote. "All's well down on the farm. Your father's in fine shape again after his op so we're getting our cuppas regularly."

"I'm coming home," I said. We flew in to find a BBC bus, six lorries, a caterer's truck, four campers, a Range Rover, McShane's Jag with napping chauffeur, 17 other cars and a pungent trailer of portable toilets in the field behind the house. Old baths and mangles were piled up outside one of the buildings. A sign on the barn said, "Lovejoy Antiques". Inside, our kitchen chairs hung on the wall; our table had a price on it; so did one of our rugs and some antique horse brasses. Lovejoy had some fast talking to do here.

The house itself looked as if it did indeed, belong to Freddy the Fixer,  Lovejoy's wide-boy friend enjoying an enforced and very long holiday in Spain. There were tatty, smelly sofas and cheap repro furniture. Tacky, tacky, I thought. . . then noticed two of my "antique" corner tables fitting in very nicely.

Filming was going on in my (Lovejoy's) bedroom. I crept up hoping to catch him in the act. But in my bed, once fluffy, lacy and white now playboy-black, Lovejoy's sidekick Eric (Chris jury) was just waking up, moaning about the morning after the night before. Ian McShane was in the field, piling up his plate from the canteen, fighting to keep his sausages from flying away in the gale-force winds.

He looked happy, healthy, handsome - and half-frozen. "Just a little East Anglian breeze," he shouted, as umbrellas turned inside out. The last time I'd seen him he was all black leather and cowboy boots at a party at the fashionable St James Club in Hollywood; before that we'd had crab cakes on Sunset Strip, a stone's throw from the penthouse where he and his wife, actress Gwen Humble, live when they're in Los Angeles.

Somehow he seems more at home as Lovejoy. The character he brought to the screen in 1985 has made him a superstar, millionaire, sex symbol and instantly recognisable voice and face for lucrative commercials. At 48, he's aware how successful he is, and how lucky. Co-producer of Lovejoy, he occasionally directs and is the force and attraction that keeps the show a hit. But he knows it could all end tomorrow.

"That box in the corner needs feeding. Continuously. If you're the one feeding it, that's great: ride the wave of it, enjoy it, try and work it best for you. Get all out of it that you can but don't over-expose yourself. And don't become complacent. And then, when the crest is over, move on to something else."

He's all northern common sense now, after his wild, drinking, Jack the Lad years. For, while part of his attraction is that you like to think he still has a naughty streak, he has turned his life around.
He found the perfect lady, of course. He was revelling in his reputation as a "sleepy-eyed seducer" when he met Gwen 12 years ago on the Queen Mary at Long Beach, California. They were working on the film Cheaper To Keep Her and McShane, ever the joker, says, "I decided it was, and asked her to marry me."

Gwen, cool, blonde and disciplined, had summed him up in an instant but fell in love anyway. His "perfect bottom" first, she says, then his "sexy smile". After McShane was badly hurt in a car smash, spending the next year with his good footballer's leg in plaster, he was nursed by Gwen and, as soon as he could hobble down the deck, they were married on board the Queen Mary in 1980.

Domestic bliss has been a long time coming. He'd been married twice before and had a short, sometimes not-so-sweet, highly publi­cised affair with the tempestuous Emmanuelle star Sylvia Kristel. His biggest regret is the strained relationship with his children Kate, 21, and Morgan, 17, from his second marri­age, which broke up bitterly in 1976, two years after the family moved to Hollywood. He admits they haven't had the close family life he enjoyed (his father Harry, an ex-Manchester United footballer, and his mother are regular visitors to Lovejoy locations) but hopes the situation will improve.

Settled home life is now matched by a settled work pattern - he's signed up for another two series of Lovejoy. So what is it about the Lovejoy lad that has audiences wanting to see more? (And we're not talking about the famous bare bum scene last season, for which McShane, once dimpled round the derriere, exercised himself into great shape.)

"I think it's partly the old thing that people love a sly rogue," says McShane. "He's not really a crook. He's on the side of the angels but he can get a bit dodgy. I mean, he turns a blind eye to antiques that sort of just turn up, you know what I mean?

"He doesn't look like an antiques dealer but it's his passion. That's what makes his char­acter work. I want him to get out of the rut but you can't take him too far away from antiques. You don't fix what isn't broken. "

Lovejoy gives him the chance to do comedy, which he thinks suits him better than the "heavy" roles he was getting, or empty leading man parts where "all I did was smile for two hours". It's also given him the power to do other things and he's looking forward some stage work and "obviously, more directing."

He's certainly a power to be reckoned with here. "Time to go back to work, darlings," he said and everyone jumped. Even my father the tea maker ("He calls everyone darling, even the men," my father told me, suspiciously. "I hope he doesn't call me darling.") It was the last show of the season; he was looking forward to his last trip up the motorway, a "rest" working on scripts before flying off to Prague to film next year's Lovejoy Christmas special.

He'd already done a Freddy the Fixer by the time we moved back into our house, got my father out of the habit of making a pot of tea for 30, and started moving our furniture back in. Or rather, tried to stop the BBC from moving our furniture out. We had to run after props people busy taking our vases (with water and flowers still in them) and grab lamps and chairs off the backs of lorries as they sped toward the gates.

But we weren't fast enough. Lovejoy - come back! There's a nice little mystery down here: the case of the missing kitchen table, the vanishing garden furniture, the disappearing rugs, chopping boards, Vic's tools, binoculars, coal scuttle, mailbox and assorted mugs, one of which reads "I'm a mug from Barking". Now surely that won't be too difficult to ^t track down .. ?

BBC, and watched Ian McShane use their chairs as junk

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