According to a report in today’s New York Times Arts Beat Blog, a casting agent for the upcoming Hobbit films recently posted an advertisement looking for extras with “light skin tones.”
According to the Agence France-Presse, an actor with a Pakistani background was dismissed at a casting session, and promptly started a Facebook group, “Hire hobbits of all colours! Say no to hobbit racism!”
A spokesperson for Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films has stated that the casting director had received no such instructions, and the studio does not condone discrimination. According to a report on CNN’s Entertainment Blog, the casting director in question has been dismissed.
JRR Tolkien’s Prologue to The Lord of the Rings contains a section titled “Concerning Hobbits,” which tells us that the Harfoots (apparently ancestors of the Bagginses and other Hobbits of the Shire) “were browner of skin” than other Hobbits. It would seem that most Hobbits in the Third Age might be considered “people of color.”
Tolkien has sometimes been accused of racial prejudice. The passage in “Concerning Hobbits” seems to discredit that view. Let’s hope that Jackson and crew will continue to dismiss those who seem uninformed about Tolkien’s intentions, instead of dismissing actors based on their skin tone.