Extra 'too brown' to be a hobbit
Peter Jackson's troubled Hobbit project has reportedly become embroiled in a race row after a would-be extra was told she was too dark to play a one of the pint-sized Tolkien creatures.
Briton Naz Humphreys, who has Pakistani heritage, attended a casting session in the New Zealand city of Hamilton last week.
She says she queued for three hours only to be told her skin tone was not suitable.
"It's 2010 and I still can't believe I'm being discriminated against because I have brown skin," Humphreys told the Waikato Times.
"The casting manager basically said they weren't having anybody who wasn't pale-skinned."
The newspaper said video footage showed the casting manager telling people at the audition: "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."
Humphreys says she was a huge fan of Jackson's Oscar-winning Lord Of The Rings trilogy and, with a height of 1.5 metres, had hoped for a bit part in The Hobbit.
"I would love to be an extra," she said. "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."
Humphreys has started a Facebook group called "Hire hobbits of all colours! Say no to Hobbit racism!"
A spokesman for Jackson told the newspaper the director was unaware of the casting restriction and described it as "an incredibly unfortunate error".
"It is not something the producers or the director of The Hobbit were aware of," the spokesman said.
"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 Hobbit has been dogged by problems, including a union dispute that saw studios threaten to move production from New Zealand.
It was settled last month when the government offered generous tax breaks and changed industrial laws.
Previously The Hobbit had been stalled for years by wrangling over distribution rights, reported budget blowouts and financial woes at the MGM studio, prompting director Guillermo del Toro to quit earlier this year.
It is scheduled to begin filming in 3D next February with Jackson back in the director's chair and Martin Freeman from The Office starring in the lead role of Bilbo Baggins.