After surviving rights issues, studio financial turmoil, a change in directors and a union battle, Peter Jackson's upcoming production of The Hobbit has now been accused of racism.
According to ABC (that's Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News, a woman of Pakistani descent named Naz Humphreys claims she tried out to play a hobbit in the film and was rejected at a casting call in Hamilton, New Zealand, because her skin tone was too dark.
Humphreys told the Waikato Times, "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."
Video footage taken at the audition reportedly shows the casting manager telling people that the production was looking for "white-skinned people" because "you've got to look like a hobbit."
Humphreys was excited to audition for a bit part because she matched the height requirements to play one of the little denizens of the Shire. But, she said, "it just seemed like a shame because obviously hobbits are not brown or black or any other color. They all look kind of homogenized beige and all derived from the Caucasian gene pool." She has now started a Facebook group with the message "Say no to Hobbit racism."
A spokesperson for the production told the Waikato Times that Jackson was unaware of the controversy and called it an "unfortunate error," adding, "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 Hobbit is scheduled to begin filming in 3-D under Jackson's direction this coming February in New Zealand, with the two-part epic slated to come out in December 2012 and 2013.