Peter Jackson’s already troubled Hobbit film has become embroiled in accusations of racism after an extra claimed she was told she was too dark to play one of the diminutive Tolkien creatures.
Briton Naz Humphreys, who has Pakistani heritage, attended a casting session in Hamilton, New Zealand, last week and stood in line for three hours only to be told her skin tone was not suitable.
The Waikato Times said video footage from the audition showed the casting manager telling people they were looking for light-skinned people to play Hobbits.
He reportedly tells the would-be Hobbits: ‘I’m not trying to be . . . whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a Hobbit.’
Ms Humphreys, who is in New Zealand on a working holiday with her husband, told the newspaper: ‘It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe I’m being discriminated against because I have brown skin.
‘The casting manager basically said they weren’t having anybody who wasn’t pale-skinned.’
The would-be extra, who is just under 5ft tall, had hoped for a bit part in The Hobbit–a two-part prequel to the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings films.
But she has now set up a Facebook group called Hire hobbits of all colours! Say no to hobbit racism!
Ms Humphreys, a social policy researcher, said: ‘I would love to be an extra.
‘But it just seemed like a shame because obviously Hobbits are not brown or black or any other colour.
‘They all look kind of homogenised beige and all derived from the Caucasian gene pool.
A spokesman for Peter Jackson said he was unaware of the casting restriction and described it as an ‘incredibly unfortunate error’.
He said: ‘It is not something the producers or the director of The Hobbit were aware of.
‘They would never issue instructions of this kind to the casting crew.
‘All people meeting the age and height requirements are welcome to audition.’
The film has been dogged by production problems, many centring from a union dispute that saw studios threaten to move it out of New Zealand.
That row was only settled last month when the New Zealand government offered tax breaks and changed industrial laws.
Previously, the film has been shelved for years by distribution right issues, budget constraints and financial problems at MGM studio.
Director Guillermo del Toro also quit earlier this year.
3D filming is expected to start in February.
Naz Humphreys, not Hobbit material.
A casting agent who told a hobbit hopeful she wasn’t ‘white’ enough for the role has been sacked.
Naz Humphreys, who is British Pakistani, queued for three hours to be considered in the Peter Jackson film.
But she was told skin tone wasn’t light enough to be an extra.
“It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe I’m being discriminated against because I have brown skin,” the actress told media.
“The casting manager basically said they weren’t having anybody who wasn’t pale-skinned.”
The agent had also placed a newspaper ad asking for female hobbit extras with “light skin tones” to try out for the role.
A spokesman for Jackson’s Wingnut Films told AFP the contractor had since been sacked.
The Hobbit is scheduled to begin filming in 3D next February.