The ad in the Matamata Chronicle said "Official Lord of the Rings extras casting call," and said that they were looking for men and women under 58" in height. Filming to begin later this year, some of it in Hinuera, which is where the Hobbiton set is being built, not far from Matamata.
Crossing over into the country around Hobbiton there is always a scarf of mist cutting it off from the rest of the world and on the other side the trees are skeletal as though the land is in the grip of an earlier winter in another time. The hedgerows are pruned back into leafless grey sqared blocks.
I arrive at the audition centre in plenty of time but there has been a mix-up in the times in the various local papers, so many other people arrive early and are queuing anywhere and everywhere that looks promising. The staff from ThreeFootSix arrive and are a bit bemused to find so many people there already lining up outside behind any promising-looking door. Its freezing cold and eventually people drift up into an upstairs room to keep warm, though its a lesson in crowd dynamics the way rushes develop to and fro up and down the stairs as rumours circulate about where the line is in fact going to start. Its a casting call for children as well and I overhear parents whispering to their children things like, "Get into that line and dont give way an inch for anyone!"
Piles of forms are distributed on a table and a casting crew member asks people to take one each and fill it out. We all jump in there in a split second like a gannet feeding-frenzy. The forms mainly ask about various measurements and availability, can you or would you wear contact lenses etc. Perhaps so you can have red eyes if youre an orc, who knows. ThreeFootSix dont need to know if you can tapdance while playing the banjo. Swordfighting and horseriding are assets, and some people brought along photos of their horses.
We waited, we chatted and made friends with the people next in line it was a fine way to spend some time. Somebody told me their friend had sold their hedgerows to the film company, whove dug them up whole and replanted them around the Hobbiton set. Another neighbour was very admiring of the earthworks that Mr. Alexander was getting done for nothing. He owns the land the set is on, and its grand road and a fine dam hell end up with. Earthworks can be a big expense for farmers.
Eventually it was our turn to be measured and have our photo taken, and then it was all over. Afterwards some people said they could see that on their application form theyd been marked down for some particular type, orc or hobbit.
We hung round and saw a woman don a rubber head and shoulders mask and wave some sort of club or sword around for the benefit of the photographer. (She looked very competent and was rumoured to be someone in the Hamilton Sword and Shield club, or the Society for Creative Anachronism.) The onlookers argued about whether it was a Gollum-mask or an orc-mask. Ive got no opinion, it could have been a Halloween mask from The Warehouse for all I knew. Nasty sallow snubnosed thing it was, but presumably such things are painted later. We werent asked to try on a mask.
My guess is that if they asked you if you were claustrophobic, bad luck, youve been picked for an orc and can look forward to spending more time than youd like encased in a hideous rubber mask, and none of your friends and family will recognise you in the movie. You hope.
On a side note: Per 3foot6's request, we did not include the images with this exclusive. It seems they are quite revealing! Maybe sometime down the road we can post them.