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Sunday, 16 December, 2001, 11:58 GMT
Sir Ian Holm 'in cancer scare'
Sir Ian Holm
Sir Ian plays the venerable hobbit Bilbo
Sir Ian Holm, one of Britain's most-respected actors, has flown to America for urgent treatment after a cancer scare, according to reports.

The 70-year-old, who appears in the forthcoming Lord of the Rings film as the hobbit Bilbo, is undergoing treatment for a prostate condition, according to The Mail on Sunday newspaper.

The paper reports that he underwent an operation in the summer.

His agent, Tor Belfridge, told the newspaper: "He is not in the country. He is currently in America receiving treatment. It is a personal matter."

Olivier award

The star attended the recent world première of Lord of the Rings, at Leicester Square, London, but is expected to miss next week's charity performance of the film.

Sir Ian was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and won the Olivier Award in 1997 for his portrayal of King Lear, at the Barbican.

He was knighted in 1998.

Three of JRR Tolkien's epic novels have been filmed back-to-back in New Zealand, at a reported cost of £190m.

The story follows the fortunes of Frodo, a diminutive hobbit who embarks on a quest through Middle Earth under the guidance of Gandalf and a fellowship of travellers.

Frodo's task is to destroy the all-powerful ring that the dark lord Sauron covets.

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring is released on 19 December.

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