SINGAPORE (AP) - Ian McKellen says playing the title character in William Shakespeare's ''King Lear'' is more nerve-racking than his recent Hollywood film roles.

Singapore is the first stop on the Royal Shakespeare Company's international tour of ''King Lear'' and ''The Seagull'' by Anton Chekhov.

'''King Lear,' I've been seeing all my life. I mean, the great actors of my lifetime ... to join their company, as it were, by playing a part that's challenged them, is one of the great joys of being an actor who does the classics,'' the 68-year-old actor said Wednesday at a briefing. ''Without doubt, Lear is the one I got most nervous about.''

Directed by Trevor Nunn, the two productions will be staged July 19-22 in Singapore before going to Australia, New Zealand, the United States and London for performances that will run until the end of the year.

McKellen played the sagacious wizard Gandalf in the ''Lord of the Rings'' movies. He received an Oscar nomination for 2001's ''The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.''

He also starred as mutant villain Magneto in the ''X-Men'' movies.

''I'd never read 'Lord of the Rings' until I was asked to play Gandalf, so I didn't really know it was a frightfully famous book,'' McKellen said. ''I had never come across the 'X-Men' comics till I was asked to play Magneto, so I just jumped into that job.''

McKellen received an Oscar nomination for 1998's ''Gods and Monsters.'' His screen credits also include ''Richard III.''

By GILLIAN WONG Associated Press Writer

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