The Evening Post
September 8, 2001

Rings Extras Hat to Pass the 'T test'
Staff Reporter

People who applied to be extras on The Lord Of The Rings may have missed out after being labelled "tossers" by the $650 million epic's casting agents.

In an interview with entertainment website E Online, Wellington casting agents Liz Mullane and Miranda Rivers said they had to find 4000 people to be extras in film maker Peter Jackson's project.

Ms Mullane said that to weed out problems with extras, casting agents had what they called "the T test", which stood for tosser test.

"Because of the length and difficulty of the shoots, we knew we couldn't afford to have extras who threw tantrums. Most people were fantastic, but if we came across a problem, we'd write a big T on their form."

Ms Mullane said they also had to screen extras for claustrophobia and allergies, because some had to wear special prosthetics to look convincing as creatures from J R R Tolkien's fantasy world.

Finding extras to be elves was the most difficult. Women had to be at least 170cm tall, and men at least 180cm, as well as very slim, fair-skinned and "utterly beautiful", Ms Rivers said.

"Most New Zealanders just don't look like that. We had to recycle elves a lot, which made continuity (in the films) a nightmare."

Last-minute changes to filming schedules also forced some improvising, Ms Mullane said. A group of Maori and Polynesian extras who had been playing evil creatures called orcs, had to be transformed into fair-skinned, blond Rohan soldiers by using wigs and white powder.

Ms Mullane said she spent so much time searching for the right extras - who ended up filling more than 20,000 parts in the film series - that the deeply ingrained habit continued after filming finished.

"I find myself walking around the supermarket, staring at people and thinking, Hmmm . . . perfect elf . . . Can we get them? Then I realise what I'm doing, and I stop myself."