Rory McCann was born in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland on April 24, 1969. He has a younger sister, Sally-Gay McCann, who currently works in costumes for film and television. McCann is a supporter of the Scottish Green Party, and appeared in its 2007 Scottish Parliament general election broadcast. McCann is known for living a solitary, transient lifestyle. He often lives on his boat or in places without modern conveniences.
Growing up in Glasgow, McCann had a passion for art which led him to studying painting at the Scottish School of Forestry. McCann can play the piano, guitar, mandolin, and banjo. He was also a member of a band named Thundersoup in the early 1990s. He worked as a bridge painter (most notable on the Forth Road Bridge in east central Scotland), carpenter, and landscape gardener. He was soon discovered and trained by writer-artist Robert Parsifal Finch who saw the massive potential in him. McCann joined the Actor’s Workshop in Glasgow in 1998 and soon worked his way into acting.
McCann first appeared as an extra on the film Willow, but was fired because he laughed through the takes. He, then, appeared in a television commercial for Scotts’ Porridge Oats before beginning to appear in television and films. In 1999, he played the uncredited role of Gordon in the film Ratcatcher. The film is based around a kid navigating the filthy world of 1973 Glasgow. That same year, McCann appeared in the television movie Coming Soon – alongside Julia Davis, Ben Miller, and Billy Boyd – as Fergus.
The year 2000 brought him onto television with appearances in both Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) as a bouncer and Roger in an episode on Monarch of the Glen. He played Goon in Pasty Faces, a film about two unemployed actors who flee Glasgow for the fame promised by Hollywood and Las Vegas. 2002 brought McCann into his first recurring role on television as Kenny McLeod, a disabled personal trainer, on The Book Group. The series won the Scottish BAFTA that year for Best Television Performance. He also appeared in an episode of London’s Burning as Keith.
2003 brought a bit of a heavier workload for McCann, as he appeared as a regular in the second season of Rockface as Adam, in the pilot of the television mini-series State of Play as Stuart Brown, and playing Peter the Great in the television movie Peter in Paradise. He was also in the film Young Adam as Sam, alongside Tilda Swinton and Ewan McGregor. McCann was brought into the hands of Oliver Stone, where he played Crateros in the film Alexander, also starring Colin Farrell, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie, and Anthony Hopkins. The film went on to gross over $167 million worldwide even though reviews were hard on the film, as they deemed it boring and lack-luster, ignoring the attention to detail of historic facts, making the film one of the best historic films we’ve ever seen.
In 2005, he appeared in a television short Days of Darkness, as “Big John” Penney. McCann also appeared in the film Beowulf & Grendel, based on the epic poem “Beowulf,” as Breca. He continued in 2006 with a television appearance in the third season on Shameless as Father Critchon before the release of the film Sixty Six, where he played a policeman. McCann also played Michael Armstrong in 2007’s Hot Fuzz alongside Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman. He donated his time to becoming Attila the Hun for the television documentary Heroes and Villains in 2008. That same year, he played Moby in The Crew, a movie based around a heist in Liverpool.
In 2009, McCann played the role of McNess in the film Solomon Kane, where a ruthless mercenary renounces violence after learning his soul is bound to hell. 2010 brought him to playing Belo in the Greek Mythological Fantasy remake of Clash of the Titans. In 2011, he was a soldier commander in the film Season of the Witch, as well as having a recurring role in the second season of The Jury as Derek Hatch. That same year, his life will forever be changed when the HBO drama Game of Thrones, where he played Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, premiered and hailed for eight remarkable seasons.
McCann appeared in the television mini-series Banished as Marston in 2015. The same year, he played John Ross in Slow West, a film about a Scotsman traveling across America in pursuit of the woman he loves. In 2015, he played Tennyson Torch in XXX: Return of Xander Cage, starring Vin Diesel.
He has completed the film Jumanji: The Next Level, which will be released on December 13, 2019.