Acclaimed British actor SIR Ian McKellen has apologised for a joke insinuating he lost out on an Oscar in 2002 because it was "the year of the blacks". The Lord Of The Rings star was hosting the inaugural Stonewall awards last Thursday (02NOV06), a show in London honouring people for their contribution to equal rights. Recalling the Hollywood ceremony, in which he was nominated for his role as GANDALF, MCKellen quipped, "I can remember when I had my acceptance speech ready at the Oscars and thought I would win - but that year happened to be the year of the blacks." However, he insists his controversial comments were made in jest, saying, "I wrote the jokes myself. I hope nobody took offence by anything." Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in MONSTER'S BALL at the 2002 Annual Academy Awards, while Denzel Washington took home the Best Actor award.