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Sir Ian McKellen at the London premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Movie legend Sir Ian Mckellen was in Northern Ireland on Sunday (03Feb13) to pick up an honorary degree from the University of Ulster.
The Lord of the Rings star may be regarded as one of the finest actors around, but he proved he's not too big a star to make time for his pal James Nesbitt.
Ballymena native Nesbitt is the university's chancellor, and he bestowed the honour on Sir Ian, his co-star in Peter Jackson's latest blockbuster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
The 73 year old, who plays the iconic character Gandalf in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, traded his wizard robe for a traditional academic gown when he showed up for the special ceremony at the Magee campus.
Taking to the podium, he recalled a conversation with Nesbitt that led to his visit to the university.
He shared, "We were sitting on a mountain in 'middle earth' about six months ago and he was proudly telling me he was chancellor of a university. I didn't quite believe him, but he said, 'Oh come on, you come over and I'll show you', so here I am and delighted to be here for the first time."
Sir Ian was also asked to deliver the chancellor's lecture, and used the platform to speak out in favour of gay rights.
The openly gay star said, "Thanks to every gay person in public and non-public life who has come out. Thanks most perhaps to the cherished national belief that an Englishman's - and an Irishman's - home is his castle and that the state has no business interfering in their bedrooms.
"Every rotten anti-gay law has been repealed, shaken down from the constitutional tree. So complete is the reversal, that we even have the anomaly of civil partnerships which are not available to heterosexuals and uniquely benefit the gays!"