Jonathan Wright can't even go to Yogurtland or get in an elevator on campus at BYU without being recognized as "The Hobbit Guy," but he and two friends have bigger aspirations.
Wright, along with fellow BYU students Mitch Stephens and John Storey, began a quest last winter to garner enough tweets, website hits and fan support with their website roadtotheshire.com/ to grab the attention of Peter Jackson, director of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and get Jackson to cast the three Hobbit wannabes as extras in his next film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
"It's never really happened before where you take the fan base and include them in the film," Wright said. "If it happens, every fan that helped us get there would have ownership of that."
The three advertising students have centered their campaign around a website where viewers can view embellished photos of the three dressed as their alter-Hobbit egos, complete with pointy ears, and even watch a YouTube video remake of "Baby" by Justin Bieber with a Hobbit theme.
When Wright got into an elevator with a girl in the Brimhall Building last week, he couldn't figure out why she kept staring. Finally, she broke the silence and asked if he was the one in the Justin Bieber video. At Yogurtland, people unabashedly came up and started conversation about Wright's role in the grassroots Hobbit movement.
The trio has been trying to attract attention from celebrities with large online presences like Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Fallon, Bieber and Stephen Colbert, who has been making excessive references to the English tale on his show lately.
"If you're passionate, you'll find a way to get involved," Wright said.
The sensation seems to be catching fire with traffic on the site coming from 29 different countries and a YouTube channel that has captured more than 11,000 page views.
A news website in New Zealand, Stuff.co.nz, recently picked up on the story and featured the Hobbit faithfuls on their website. The students told reporter Kate Newton that they want to raise enough funds to help pay for their trip, and the article cited Stephens giving a shoutout to participants saying, "This blogger in Colorado donated $100, and we'd never met her."
The Daily Universe featured the trio as the instigators behind a number of students who waltzed around campus barefoot in commemoration of "Hobbit Day."
When asked if they would still make the trek to the set of Middle Earth in New Zealand even if uninvited, Wright responded, "Oh we're going, and we're going to make a documentary of the whole thing."