Unknown chosen for major role in latest Wuthering Heights

An UNKNOWN actor from Leeds will be the brooding face of Heathcliff in a new big-screen adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic Wuthering Heights, it has emerged.

James Howson landed the role of the tortured hero after film producers scoured Yorkshire for a young actor to match Bronte's description of Heathcliff as a "dark-skinned gypsy in aspect".

Howson, in his early 20s, is believed to be the first black actor to play Heathcliff in any screen adaptation of the 1847 novel. He secured the role after the Film4 production team put out an open call to actors in April.

They wanted someone between 16 and 21, from Yorkshire, of mixed race, Indian, Pakistani, Bangledeshi or Middle Eastern.

Previous versions, including those by Laurence Olivier, Ralph Fiennes and 33-year-old Tom Hardy from last year, have been played by older white males.

Kaya Scodelario, 18, who plays Effy Stonem in Channel 4 series Skins, was cast as Cathy.

Much of the filming, which finished last week, took place in secrecy in and around the village of Thwaite in North Yorkshire.

Gail Stevens, the film's casting director, previously allocated roles for the 2009 hit Slumdog Millionaire, giving roles to equally unknown actors.