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Connolly to celebrate 70th and vows to stay centre stage

BILLY Connolly plans to celebrate his 70th birthday tonight in a quiet New York restaurant with his family.

BIG YIN: Billy Connolly has no plans to take life easier, despite turning 70 today.
BIG YIN: Billy Connolly has no plans to take life easier, despite turning 70 today.

Unlike the comedian's 60th bash, which saw him host an incredible showbiz party at his home in Candacraig, Aberdeenshire, Connolly has opted for a more sedate setting to relax with wife Pamela Stephenson and his daughters.

However that doesn't signal the Scots star's determination to live a quiet life. While many 70-year-olds are happy to spend their days in calm contentment, Connolly refuses to surrender to advancing years.

"What would I do if I retired?" he said to a friend last night who had posed the question of the comedian taking the more gentle route. "Sit and stare out of the window all day?"

Not only will the former welder not quit showbiz, he has no plans to slow down. In fact, he's working harder than ever. The quiet Big Apple birthday celebration is enforced because the comedian is preparing for two sell-out gigs in San Francisco followed by two nights in New York.

The stand-up gigs come at the end of year in which he voiced King Fergus in Disney Pixar's computer animated Brave. And this summer Connolly spent almost four months in New Zealand working in the latest Lord of the Rings movie in which he plays a dwarf warrior Dian Ironside in The Hobbitt: An Unexpected Journey, the first instalment of director Peter Jackson's three-part prequels to The Lord of the Rings.

Connolly will return to New Zealand next year to work on the next two Hobbit films and in 2013 he can be seen starring as an elderly singer in Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut Quartet, a comedy about feuding opera singers in an English retirement home, in which he stars alongside Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Tom Courtenay and Sir Michael Gambon.

However, Connolly, voted the most influential comedian in history by 1000 of his comedy peers, won't surrender stand-up to accommodate the demand for him to make movies.

He said recently: "Stand-up is what I do, it's my job. And it's brilliant because with my kind of comedy, there's no rule book. You're like an outlaw and you just go out there and create your own reality.

"I love acting but after a while I think 'God, I wish I was out there giving it laldy again'."

Connolly was recently awarded an Outstanding Contribution Award by Bafta in Scotland, joining the likes of Sir Sean Connery, Brian Cox and Robbie Coltrane.

Since his headline appearance on the Michael Parkinson Show in 1975, Connolly has become an international star. And he will be back in Glasgow on December 10 to take part in a public event called A Life in Pictures, when he will discuss his life and career.

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