Rimmer has appeared mainly in supporting roles – especially in films and television series produced in the United Kingdom, having emigrated to England in the late 1950s, initially performing as a cabaret singer and then auditioning for Thunderbirds.
His appearances include roles in films such as Dr. Strangelove (1964), Rollerball (1975), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Gandhi (1982), Out of Africa (1985) and Crusoe (1989). More recently, he has appeared in Spy Game (2001), and the recent Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy.
In the earlier years of his career, Rimmer appeared unaccredited in, among other films, You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Star Wars (1977) and Superman II (1980). With the exception of cast members playing recurring characters, he has appeared in more James Bond films than any other actor. He also is believed to have provided the voice for the character Hamilton (played by Robert Dix) in Live and Let Die (1973) – “Whose, uh, funeral is it?” – “Yours”.
Rimmer had a long-running association with TV producer Gerry Anderson. Thunderbirds fans recognise him as the voice actor behind the character of Scott Tracy. He drafted the story for the penultimate episode, “Ricochet” (1966), from which writer Tony Barwick penned a script.
He also wrote scripts and provided unaccredited voices for Anderson’s subsequent Supermarionation productions Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967–68), Joe 90 (1968–69) and The Secret Service (1969), appeared in episodes of the live-action series UFO (1970) and The Protectors (1972–74), provided voices for Space: 1999 (1975–77), and guest-starred in one of its episodes, “Space Brain” (1976). Later, he appeared in the un-televised 1983 pilot Space Police (which was adapted as a full TV series and renamed Space Precinct in the 1990s) and provided the voice of the title character in Dick Spanner, P.I. (1986–87).
Rimmer and fellow Anderson associate, American actor Ed Bishop, would joke about how their professional paths frequently crossed, calling themselves “Rent-a-Yanks”. They appeared together as United States Navy sailors in The Bedford Incident (1965) and as NASA technicians in the opening of You Only Live Twice (1967), as well as touring together on stage, including a production of Death of a Salesman in the 1990s. Rimmer and Bishop also appeared in the BBC drama-documentary Hiroshima, which was completed shortly after Bishop’s death in 2005.
Rimmer also appeared once in Doctor Who (in the 1966 serial The Gunfighters), and twice in Coronation Street: as Joe Donnelli (from 1968 to 1970), who held Stan Ogden hostage before committing suicide, and Malcolm Reid (in 1988), the father of Audrey Roberts’ son Stephen. He has made many guest appearances in British TV series for ITV, including Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, as well as ITC’s The Persuaders.
In 1989, Rimmer was reunited with Bishop and another Gerry Anderson associate, Matt Zimmerman, during the production of a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet. In 2012, he recorded a reading of Donald Cotton’s Doctor Who novelisation of The Gunfighters for release in February 2013.
In 2014 Shane released his first fiction novel Long Shot, through amazon.co.uk/com. This marked Shane’s second foray into publishing, having released his autobiography From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls 4 years previously.