McKellen Works Oscar Magic

For his next trick, the Wizard Gandalf will try to make an Oscar appear in his living room.

Sir Ian McKellen, who picked up the Screen Actor's Guild award Sunday for his work in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, is clearly a frontrunner to win supporting actor honors at this year's Oscar. At 63, the British actor is on top of his game and one of the hottest actors on the big screen. This weekend he hosts Saturday Night Live and he says he'd like audiences to see the other side of him. "I'm always in long beards," he says, "so I'd like...slightly younger parts … The other day, I got offered this script, [and someone asked] 'Would I play the part of God?' They don't come much older than that." From Shakespeare to Stand-Up

This Shakespearean-trained actor has long been acclaimed in his native land and has appeared in more than 50 films. But with two more Lord of the Rings sequels in the works, audiences will see a lot of McKellen with a long white beard, playing J.R.R. Tolkein's hero-wizard. Of course, McKellen has another ace in the hole. He'll be reprising his role as Magneto in the next X-Men sequel, due out next year. While all that science fiction and fantasy is fun, McKellen is hoping that American audiences will still accept him in a variety of roles — even some turns at comedy. "I'm doing Saturday Night Live," McKellen says. "I'm hosting the show, achieving a long-held ambition to do some stand-up. I just have to come in with a lot of ideas so no doubt they'll feature Gandalf and Magneto and references to Shakespeare probably all mixed together." But with Fellowship of the Ring pushing $300 million domestically, McKellen has probably found the role of a lifetime. He's the only actor from the film to earn an Oscar nomination, though the film is a sure bet to take home some technical awards. ‘We Held Each Other’s Hands When We Were Done’

As Gandalf, McKellen aids the hobbit Frodo as he seeks to destroy a powerful ring whose owner could rule Middle-Earth. "The film is very true to the spirit of the books but now of course it's crossed beyond that to the general cinema-going audience who is discovering that they want an adventure story, an adventure story for our times about good fighting evil," McKellen says.

The other nominees for Best Supporting Actor are Jim Broadbent (Iris), Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) and Jon Voight (Ali)

Even if Gandalf isn't the role of a lifetime, McKellen has, in a sense, been branded for life. The nine actors who played the characters that formed the Fellowship got tattoos to commemorate the two-year bonding experience of filming the trilogy in New Zealand. "Elijah Wood plays Frodo," McKellen says. "I think [he] had the idea that we should all be tattooed, the nine members of the fellowship. So we went to a tattoo parlor in Wellington, the capitol city, one Sunday morning and held each others' hands when we were done. "I have mine on my upper right arm, and it says 'Nine' in Elvish, the language that Tolkein invented for Lord of the Rings."

ABCNEWS Radio and Buck Wolf contributed to this report.

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