Racism row over Brit Pak woman being ‘too brown’ to play Hobbit

Monday, November 29, 2010

WELLINGTON - A racism row started on New Zealand film director Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ after a British Pakistani woman was told she was not white enough to play a Hobbit.

Naz Humphreys, who is 1.5 metres, or 5 ft, tall, and who has the requirements to be a hobbit extra, travelled from Auckland to Hamilton to audition for the part.

“It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe I’m being discriminated against because I have brown skin,” the Waikato Times quoted Humphreys as saying.

“The casting manager basically said they weren’t having anybody who wasn’t pale-skinned,” she stated.

A video of the auditions showed a film company representative telling the crowd: “We are looking for light-skinned people. I’m not trying to be - whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a hobbit.”

A spokesman for Jackson, 49, said the filmmaker was unaware of the casting restriction and described it as “an incredibly unfortunate error”.

The Hamilton auditions attracted 700 people wanting to play hobbits in the two-part film, and Humphreys said she waited for three hours, only to be told there was little point.

The social policy researcher, who is in New Zealand on a working holiday with her husband, said it was a Christmas ritual for the couple to watch The Lord of the Rings films.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime. 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,” she said.

“They all look kind of homogenised beige and all derived from the Caucasian gene pool,” she added.

Writer JRR Tolkien had not specified that all hobbits were pale-skinned. According to The Complete Guide to Middle-earth ‘Harfoots’ are the most common hobbit and ‘browner’ than other types. ‘Fallohides’, who settled the Shire, which included Hobbiton, had ‘fairer skin’.

“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,” Jackson’s spokesman said.

“All people meeting the age and height requirements are welcome to audition for The Hobbit,” he added.

Humphreys has set up a Facebook page entitled “Hire Hobbits of all colours! Say No to Hobbit racism!” (ANI)

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