The Swearengen Factor

I realized pretty much every cool action or fantasy story I've been looking forward to this year features Ian McShane.

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“Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.”
— Ian McShane as Al Swearengen

It looks like Ian McShane has plenty of plans for 2019, including a good portion of the movies and shows I’ve been anticipating.

McShane has been acting steadily since at least the early 60s, and at 77 he shows no signs of slowing down. His portrayal of Al Swearengen in HBO’s Deadwood even seemed to help him amass a whole new generation of fans.

He has since popped up in everything from Game of Thrones to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to American Horror Story to Coraline to an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

For those unfamiliar with history, the real life Ellis Albert "Al" Swearengen, who ran Deadwood's Gem Theater in the late 1800s, was a fowl, abusive, bullying ball of corruption. He left Deadwood for Colorado at the turn of the century and his body was found dead near a streetcar track in Denver just a few years later. The cause is unknown, but I can bet there’s quite the story behind it we’ll never know.

McShane’s portrayal of Swearengen in the HBO series that ran for three seasons beginning 2004 is one of the big reasons that show was so popular. Swearengen in the series was a horrible, dirty and brutal beast, but yet he was really, really likable.

The scene that stands out for me was when he actually murdered a man (the preacher suffering from increasing dementia) in what for him was an act of compassion. That gave an extra layer to this grimy character.

Swearengen is coming back on May 31 when HBO’s Deadwood movie premieres 13 years after the original series ended. It picks up in 1889 as South Dakota celebrates its statehood. It looks like much of the original cast (still living) has returned, including thankfully Timothy Olyphant at Seth Bullock, but we all really want to see what shenanigans Al is up to.

Right now, McShane is continuing his role as Mr. Wednesday, the charismatic mysterious leader of the Old Gods, for the second season of Starz's American Gods. Wednesday, is pretty much a conniving, conman who is hellbent on starting a war with the New Gods (not surprising, because he’s actually Odin).

The season premiered March 10, and is only three episodes in, but Wednesday is already putting his manipulation skills to use. Binge it if you must.

As for theatrical releases, McShane’s one of the key ingredients to everyone’s favorite guilty please action movies series, John Wick, as Continental Hotel owner Winston. This guy has some power in the underworld in which Wick operates, and though we don’t know much about his history, we know he demands respect.

This is the man who has declared Wick ex communicado and fair game to anyone who wants to kill him, but it only begins on Winston’s word. John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum comes out May 17, so hold on to your hats and hug your doggy, because this one looks intense.

Before that, however, McShane will portray Professor Bruttenholm, director of Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense in the R-rated reboot Mike Mignola’s comic classic Hellboy.

At first I didn’t think a reboot was needed, as the original Guillermo del Toro trilogy was terrific, and the late John Hurt played Bruttenholm in that series. Yet, seeing the first trailer and David Harbour’s portrayal of Hellboy made me interested. Seeing McShane as Hellboy's "father figure," nailed it. It looks to be quite a ride.

Hellboy comes out April 11, he’s ready to rock n’ roll.

There might be one or two fairly big films coming out in 2019, but if you’re looking for pure, unadulterated badass, check the credits for Mr. McShane.

Header image © HBO

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