John Hannah was born April 23, 1962 in East Kilbride, Scotland, UK. After high school he worked as an apprentice electrician before being accepted to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

He paid his dues to the theatre after college with several small parts before braking into movies with his role in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). His part was Matthew, the gay lover of Gareth, played by Simon Callow, the man who's funeral it is referred to in the title. This is not a role that most straight actors like to take on for their first major role, as it is typical that they are typecasted to that role again and again. However, the fact that they are gay is hardly noticed until two-thirds of the way into the movie, as it is not really discussed until then.

His next big motion picture was Sliding Doors (1998), where he played the romantic lead role of James Hammerton against Gwyneth Paltrow's character Helen Quilley.

He acted in The Mummy (1999), where he played Jonathan Carnahan, the treasure-hunting brother of female lead Evy, played by Rachel Weisz. He, of course, was also in The Mummy Returns (2001).