SIR Ian McKellen is delighted his Lord Of The Rings trilogy embraces smoking, but thinks there might be an underlying pro-marijuana message in JRR TOLKIEN's work.

The British thespian, who plays GANDALF in the trilogy, is surprised anti-smoking groups haven't attacked the project for its scenes featuring people smoking.

He says, "It's the most popular movie in the world and all the main characters smoke. I mean not just the old guys, but THE HOBBITS smoke as well.

"There's a very touching scene when MERRY is saying goodbye to PIPPIN, he thinks for the last time, and he says, 'Here you are. Here's the last of the longbottom leaf,' which is the name of the weed that they're smoking.

"But what were they actually packing into their pipes? Tolkien was a great pipe smoker, so it's probably innocent nicotine, but obviously the best way to enjoy Lord of The Rings is to have a smoke first!"

05/01/2004 18:10