Wandering in Swamps Could've Been Tough. but If You're Standing Next to Penelope Cruz, It's Not That Difficult - BLACKBEARD STAR IAN McSHANE

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Byline: JOHN HISCOCK

SWORD fighting with an injured shoulder in some of the hottest film locations in the world, Ian McShane proved he's no antique.

He might be 68 and a grandad but he's in no mood to bring the hammer down on his 50-year career just yet.

Ian, who for millions will always be charming antiques dealer Lovejoy in the hit TV series, is relishing an amazing new high in his roller-coaster life - as Hollywood's favourite villain.

And the star landed the role of murderous Blackbeard in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film, On Stranger Tides.

It meant three hours in make-up every day for six months and gruelling scenes that would have tested a man half his age. But twinkle-eyed Ian found a way to keep himself going.

He smiles: "Wandering through swamps with an 80lb leather jacket on could have been tough.

"But if you're standing next to Penelope Cruz, it's not that difficult."

He adds that Johnny Depp, who stars as Captain Jack Sparrow, is "a diamond".

Ian says: "It was a gift of a job and the script was good so it wasn't like we were making a really crappy movie but still having a good time. We were making a really good movie and having a REALLY good time.

"Blackbeard is probably the most infamous pirate who ever lived.

He's one of those characters for which most of your work is done before you start."

But it still took a lot of work for make-up artists to turn Ian into Blackbeard each day. "The beard was complicated but I loved it," he says. "It looked as if five black cats were knitted together.

We tried to put burning pieces in it so it looked fiery but the smoke blew all over the place or the beard caught fire. So they put the effect in afterwards."

DIAMOND

He loved the swashbuckling and adds: "I'd had an operation on my rotator cuff but the sword fighting was good exercise."

As he chats in a Beverly Hills hotel suite, Ian is still sporting the long hair and beard he grew for the role last year. …