Pakistani-origin woman ‘too dark’ to play hobbit

Published: December 1, 2010
Naz Humphreys was told she was “too dark” to play a hobbit. PHOTO: FILE

Naz Humphreys was told she was “too dark” to play a hobbit. PHOTO: FILE

LONDON: After a sticky start and months of speculation, Warner Bros finally declared that it was going to start filming two movies based on JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Hobbit with Peter Jackson as the director. However, it was not long before another controversy hit the franchise by storm with accusations of racial discrimination during casting.

A British Pakistani accused the casting manager for The Hobbit of racism because he told her she was “too dark” to play any one of the diminutive creatures, a media report said on Tuesday.

Naz Humphreys attended a casting session in Hamilton, New Zealand, last week. After having stood in line for three hours, waiting for the actual audition, the eager Humprheys was turned away only to be told later that her skin tone was not suitable for the part.

The Wailkato Times reported video footage from the audition which showed the casting manager telling participants that they were looking for a particular skin type, preferably light-skinned people to play hobbits.

In the released footage, the casting manager 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.”

However, befitting the role does not seem to worry an enraged Humphreys who still maintains racial profiling played a key component in the auditions. “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 were not taking anybody who was not pale-skinned.”

Humphreys who had hoped for a small part in The Hobbit – a two-part prequel to the Oscar-winning Lord Of The Rings series, has now turned the tables on the franchise by setting up a group on Facebook titled “Hire hobbits of all colours! Say no to hobbit racism!”

“I would love to just be an extra. But it just seems 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,” said Humphreys.

Filmmaker Peter Jackson took a defensive stance once he became aware of the accusations levelled against the franchise. A spokesman for Jackson said he 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. They would never issue instructions of this kind to the casting crew. All people meeting the age and height requirements are welcome to audition,” he said trying to curtail the matter.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2010.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (12)

  • Ferret
    Dec 2, 2010 - 2:59AM

    This is pathetic. Hobbits aren’t described as being dark skinned, they’re all described and depicted as having a lighter skin tone. This does not make anybody racist. I mean come on. If I auditioned for the part to play Ali and they told me I couldn’t because I’m white, would that make them racist? I think not. What causes racism is the minorities constantly accusing whites as being racist.Recommend

  • Ultimate Cynic
    Dec 2, 2010 - 10:58AM

    Agree with Ferret. Humphreys is plain over(re)acting. Give us a break!Recommend

  • Sana
    Dec 2, 2010 - 10:58AM

    I agree with the above. This is ridiculous. This is giving actual racists ammo.Recommend

  • Pakistan Zindabad
    Dec 2, 2010 - 11:09AM

    Desi people in the west turned down for anything will play racism card. Didn’t expect that from a Paki cauz its usually the ‘Indian’ mentality … Oops am I being racist too??? :)Recommend

  • Dec 2, 2010 - 11:15AM

    She got what she wanted though. Free publicity.
    Her agent will be taking phone calls non-stop all week now! Recommend

  • Ferret
    Dec 2, 2010 - 11:21AM

    If she did it strictly for publicity then she did a super job with it. Still, it’s stuff like this that fuels racismRecommend

  • Armughan
    Dec 2, 2010 - 12:58PM

    No where is it mentioned that Hobbit are whites, they are short, generally shy and wear bright colors. So i agree with this person that is indeed was racial discrimination. And someone said that if they would allow to cast a white guy for a role of Muhammad Ali, well i can only ask would they cast a black guy for JFK? dude make some sense. Recommend

  • MAD
    Dec 2, 2010 - 2:06PM

    Say cant they have black hobbitsRecommend

  • Arsalan J. Sheikh
    Dec 2, 2010 - 4:51PM

    I’m Pakistani, slightly brown-skinned, and a life-time fan of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I would NEVER want to see this movie casting brown-skinned Hobbits. It would simply be in-authentic to the original book.

    This lady should get a life, and a job, and stop hogging the publicity lime-light.Recommend

  • Arsalan J. Sheikh
    Dec 2, 2010 - 4:58PM

    “Ms Humphreys said she went to the audition for fun and was merely annoyed at being notified of the casting requirements in the published advertisement.

    “I understand that the film and theatre industries have legitimate reasons to hire performers whose appearance matches their role and I support their right to do so.” “Recommend

  • Ferret
    Dec 2, 2010 - 5:07PM

    England, and the history of England is depicted, and known for being prominently white, from King Arthur, to the barbaric times. This is how Tolkien depicted hobbits, and keep in mind this was during a time where blacks were still outcast from society. So common sense will tell us that hobbits are to be of a lighter skin tone.

    The guy doing the casting should’ve just kept his mouth shut because all he did was start this stupid debate. The Hobbit should be how Tolkien envisioned it, and should be on par with LOTR. We don’t need any more “We’re not racist, see we put a black person in our film” crap, especially with LOTR.

    Reverse the roles, as I said with a white person auditioning for the role of Ali, and he’d be laughed at. If he accused the people doing the auditioning of being racist, they’d laugh at him more, and tell him to get the hell out. See my point now? Does it make sense now Dude?Recommend

  • Amna
    Dec 2, 2010 - 8:29PM

    I agree with Ferret. This isn’t racism…if you are playing a white person… you need to look the part…if you are playing a black…same thing. Recommend

More in Film