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'Hobbit' actor Ian McKellen admits 'I never understand the plot' of the movies

Whether Ian McKellen is discussing his latest movie, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," sharing photos of his Thanksgiving dinner with Patrick Stewart or admiring TODAY's Matt Lauer's "No-Shave November" beard, he's always got a smile on his face.

"You look very handsome in that," he told Lauer, gesturing at the anchor's facial hair, before getting to his big reveal. 

The "Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" veteran (where he plays wizard Gandalf) actually doesn't tax himself too much on the story, he revealed on TODAY. "I never understand the plot, anyway," he chuckled about the Peter Jackson-directed films. "I just do what I'm told."

Perhaps he's more particular about plot points in the two plays he's doing with Patrick Stewart on Broadway, "Waiting for Godot" and "No Man's Land." Two plays at once, he says, is actually keeping him sharp: "We never get bored," he said, admitting that only doing one play for a full week can be "tedious."

And Stewart and McKellen love hanging out so much they even spent Thanksgiving together; McKellen retweeted Stewart's photo proof last week. 



"We have known each other about 30 years, so it's quite genuine," he said.

But while McKellen has been happy to post photos of himself with bromance bud Stewart, one image had him cringing — the one that emerged in November in which he stood on stage, stripped to his Gandalf-themed skivvies. "It was (for) a charity," he insisted.

Later, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb brought up the trou-drop again, but offered a salve for his embarrassment: a nice-sized pair of boxer shorts featuring the ladies' cartoon faces on the bottom. "I shall wear them onstage!" McKellen proudly proclaimed.

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" opens in theaters Dec. 13.