By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News
Sir Ian McKellen is set to reprise his Gandalf role inThe Hobbit
James Cameron's 3D extravaganza Avatar has won three accolades at the Empire Film Awards in London.
In a good night for science fiction and fantasy, Avatar won best film, Cameron took the best director prize, and Zoe Saldana won best actress.
Sir Ian McKellen, who starred in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the X-Men movies, was presented with the Empire Icon award.
JJ Abrams' Star Trek movie won best sci-fi/fantasy film.
Picking up the award, Simon Pegg (who played Scotty) said that films like Star Trek, District 9 and Avatar meant it had been a good year for science fiction.
"It's nice to see some recognition," he told the BBC.
Andy Serkis was stunned to receive the Inspiration Award
"Star Trek was a hard thing to do, JJ did it with amazing aplomb. He took a story that people were starting to lose interest in - in the mainstream - and brought it back to a larger audience."
On his icon award, Sir Ian McKellen said: "I've played iconic parts - I think that's the point. I played Gandalf the Grey and the White and Magneto. So their lustre rubs off on me rather than the other way round."
Fellow Lord of The Rings star Andy Serkis was surprised at the ceremony with the inspiration award.
Serkis said: "I had no idea. I was prepared to just sit and have a few beers and enjoy the show tonight, so it took me completely by surprise."
Sam Taylor Wood directed Aaron Johnson in Nowhere Boy
The best newcomer award went to 19-year-old Aaron Johnson for his portrayal of a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy. He currently stars in action comedy Kick Ass.
Aaron Johnson was with his fiancee - and Nowhere Boy director - Sam Taylor Wood, 43, who is expecting his first child.
Johnson said it was his first award win, but that fatherhood was his priority and he would be taking some time off "to be a dad".
He said: "That's the most special thing for me this year - the biggest award for me is having a baby. But it means a lot for people to appreciate your work."
Fellow British actor Ray Winstone received the outstanding contribution to British film award, while Jude Law, recently seen as Dr Watson in Sherlock Holmes, was awarded the title of Empire Hero.
The film itself, directed by Guy Ritchie, picked up the best thriller award.
The Empire awards, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, were hosted by Irish comedian Dara O'Briain.
Inglourious Basterds star Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar earlier this month, added to his bulging trophy cabinet by winning the best actor award.
Sir Michael Caine's Harry Brown took home best British film and In The Loop was named best comedy. Best horror was won by Swedish film Let The Right One In.
'Come and get it!"
Johnny Vegas and Jude Law pose together before the ceremony
Comedian and actor Johnny Vegas picked up the best actress award on behalf of Avatar star Zoe Saldana.
He joked that he'd met Saldana on "an intensive driving course in Blackpool".
He said: "She had trouble with her handbrake turns, and I had problems reverse parking - so we helped each other through it."
In a rare serious moment, Vegas said: "From technical point of view Avatar has changed the face of film-making, and it can capture an actor's emotions down to a pinpoint."
Asked how he would get the award to Saldana, he said: "The same way I got it to Johnny Depp - keep it in my house. If she wants it she can come and get it!"
The nominations were chosen by readers of Empire magazine who cast their votes online.
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