Ian McShane always believed his friend John Hurt would make a ''miraculous recovery'' from cancer.

The 74-year-old actor had been friends with the 'Elephant Man' star - who died in January after a battle with pancreatic cancer - since they studied at RADA together and though he had been ''expecting'' his passing, he was still shocked by the news because he had fought back from the brink many times in the past.

He said: ''Oh, Johnny, he was my oldest friend. It was weird, you know, because I'd be expecting [his death] as I knew about his condition.

''But it was still a shock as he'd made a few miraculous recoveries before from near-death experiences, and I thought he was well-picked enough to survive anything.

''I loved him dearly and I miss him a lot. 'The Wild And the Willing' was our first role, then we did our first stage play together and made his first television show together.''

Ian has previously spoken candidly about his wild past partying with the likes of John and the late Oliver Reed and George Best, and though he insists his boozing never affected his work, he doesn't think he could live that life again now.

Asked if his wild ways impacted on his work, he said: ''Never. I was what they'd call a very high-functioning [alcoholic]. I'd go to bed at three in the morning, have two hours' sleep and come out with a page of dialogue. At the time, of course, I thought, 'Oh, two hours sleep? Perfectly fine.' Now I'd go, 'Jesus Christ.' ''

Read the full interview with Ian in Empire magazine, which is out now.