McShane is given a less than complimentary mention by Mark E Smith in the Fall song, "A Past Gone Mad".
He had starred in a number of films until 1987 when he made few major film appearances until the turn of the Millennium.
In 1983, he starred in the short-lived NBC prime time soap opera Bare Essence. In 1985, he appeared on Grace Jones' album Slave to the Rhythm, reading an excerpt from Ian Penman's essay The Annihilation of Rhythm. Work in the 2000s has included roles in movies Scoop, Sexy Beast, Agent Cody Banks, and We Are Marshall. In the United States, he is perhaps best known for the role of historical figure Al Swearengen in the HBO series Deadwood. For his performance in this role as the storm centre of the series, he won the 2005 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Drama and was also nominated for similar awards at the 2005 Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In 2000, he appeared as Darryl Van Horne in Cameron Mackintosh's musical The Witches of Eastwick - his first London stage appearance since he starred with Dame Judi Dench in The Promise in the late 1960s. He also made a guest appearance in the third season of The West Wing, playing Russian negotiator Nikolai Ivanovich in the episode Enemies Foreign and Domestic. His most recent roles are the part of Captain Hook in Shrek the Third, the voice of Iofur Raknison (known as Ragnar Sturlusson in the film) in The Golden Compass, the voice of the evil Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda, the comedy Hot Rod, and the voice of Mr. Bobinski, a beet-eating Russian giant in the film Coraline. He is also noteworthy in the pivotal role of Merriman Lyon in The Seeker.
During the 2007–2008 season, he starred as Max in the 40th anniversary Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, co-starring Eve Best, Raul Esparza, and Michael McKean and directed by Daniel Sullivan, at the Cort Theatre (December 16, 2007 through April 13, 2008). Ian Mcshane also starred in Dick Francis Mysteries, which is a made for TV series with three parts, Twice Shy, In the Frame and Blood Sport, in which he played a jockey club detective investigating bizarre incidents based around the horse racing industry.