UPDATE: 11/29/10 14:18 PM PST According to The New York Times, the casting director responsible for turning Naz Humphreys away from The Hobbit casting sessions for being 'too dark-skinned' has been fired. Wingnut Films has released the following statement about the casting agent, who was videotaped as saying that only 'light-skinned' actors were being considered for the movie:

"No such instructions were given. The crew member in question took it upon themselves to do that and it's not something we instructed or condoned."
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Original story: Though Peter Jackson's upcoming prequel The Hobbit is finally on the right track and nearing production, it still can't shake its long run of bad luck. After severe financial problems, a fire that ravaged its production stages, a well-publicized actors' strike, and numerous other hiccups, ABC News is now reporting that the movie's casting agents are being accused of racism.

British actress Naz Humphreys, who is of Pakistani decent, claims that she waited for three hours at The Hobbit casting session being held in the New Zealand city of Hamilton last week, only to be told that her skin was too dark and not suitable for the role of a Hobbit. The casting director went onto tell her that they were only casting pale-skinned actors for the numerous parts available, and was quoted as saying, "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."

This has caused quite a bit of controversy, with both sides of the issue giving their reasons for why the decision is right and wrong. While some see no problem whatsoever with casting according to what has come before in the franchise, Humphreys stated, "It's 2010 and I still can't believe I'm being discriminated against because I have brown skin. I would love to be an extra. But 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."

A spokesman for Peter Jackson, who said the director was unaware of the restriction, called it "an incredibly unfortunate error". They went onto say, "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."

We'll soon see if there are any dark-skinned Hobbits in the Shire, as The Hobbit is scheduled to begin shooting in 3D this coming February.