Hutt invaded by would-be hobbits, elves
JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth was a place of horse and carts but auditions in Lower Hutt on Saturday for The Hobbit caused such a snarl-up of cars, police closed it down.
State Highway 2 northbound was at times locked up from the Kennedy-Good Bridge traffic lights all the way back to Melling, as would be hobbits and elves tried to make the turn-off to the Belmont Memorial Hall, and others rubber-necked.
There were reports of two crashes.
Auditioning company 3foot7 had said they were expecting around 1200 people but many more than that turned up. Half an hour after the 1pm start, the line-up snaked from the hall back to the rhododendron dell several hundred metres away, with a swelling crowd hard up against the highway crash barrier.
Police closed the operation down after around 800 had been measured and photographed, leaving many hundreds of others disappointed.
One man told us that he'd joined the queue at 10.30am and he was number 60.
Advertisements for the casting call said the Peter Jackson production needed extras including men under 5' 4'' (163cm), women under 5' (155cm); ''slim, athletic'' elves up to 6' 4'' (203cm) and men and women with ''character faces''.
All sorts thought they had a chance. ZZ Top lookalikes lined up with bearded backblocks men and refugees from Movember who'd let the facial fur grown wild.
A number of people came in hand-made Hobbit cloaks and there were long-haired women who with a bit of make-up department magic looked like they could deliver the ethereal qualities of a pointy-eared elf.
Few would give their real name to reporters, after noting instructions not to talk to the media on the forms everyone had to fill out.
A trio from Scandanavia who said they'd only been in the country a couple of weeks looked like hot prospects, with the two men sporting Viking beards and a girlfriend blessed with striking blond hair and pale eyes.
The tourists said they were there because they thought it sounded like fun.
''The bungee jumping can come later.''
'Trev' from Wainuiomata, who said he'd been an extra in Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Waterhorse and other local productions, said the casting process was a slick operation and they knew what they were looking for. For him it wasn't so much the money that could be earned as an extra as a chance to be part of an industry that New Zealand was excelling in, and where people ''show such enthusiasm and passion''.
Long-haired and hobbit-sized Kara, who described herself as an ardent fan of Tolkien's books, wasn't sure what would be required of her in the audition, but was confident she'd be up for it.
She said she'd love to land a part and wasn't at all surprised that so many others had turned up and were willing to wait in the hot sun.
Inside the hall, people had to remove their shoes to be measured (''some try to cheat, you know'' one women in the queue had told us) and were then photographed. They handed over their form with their contact details, and it was all over.
''I assume that's it,'' one man said outside. ''Yeah,'' his mate replied. ''No-one asked me to come over and shake Peter's hand.''