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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Casting agent fired over The Hobbit racism row in New Zealand

A casting agent for New Zealand-based production The Hobbit was dismissed after placing newspaper advertisements seeking extras with "light skin tones", New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) reported.

The agent advertised in the Bay of Plenty Times listing essential requirements for potential hobbits, including age (16-80), height - below 5ft, 7ins (170cm) for men and 5ft, 2ins (158cm) for women - and the requirement that women have light skin tones.

A spokesman for Wingnut Films, the production company owned by director Sir Peter Jackson, said no such instructions had been given to the casting company.

The sacking follows a complaint from a British Pakistani woman on a working holiday in New Zealand, who was told at a casting call for the two-part US$500 million production that she was not white enough to be a hobbit - a fictional human-like creature.

Naz Humphreys, a social policy researcher, said she had traveled from Auckland to Hamilton last week to participate in an extras audition for the highly-anticipated prequel to The Lord of the Rings films.

"The casting manager basically said they weren't having anybody who wasn't pale-skinned," she said.

"It's 2010 and I still can't believe I'm being discriminated against because I have brown skin."

A video of the auditions taken by the Waitako Times newspaper shows 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."

The Hobbit, based on the JRR Tolkien novel of the same name, is due to begin filming in 3D next February with Jackson back in the director's chair and Martin Freeman from UK TV hit The Office starring in the lead role of Bilbo Baggins.

The Herald Sun