12 in a Box was originally conceived in late 2003. Producer Bruce Windwood says, “John and I had just finished working together on a short film ‘Lily Was Here’, and were discussing the feeling we both had that the film industry in this country seemed to be missing its self confident “Britishness” which characterised its most successful period up to the 1960’s.
We are fans of the classic Ealing Comedy movies, and felt that it was time to re-visit that style of movie, which simply sets out to entertain. We hatched an outline, and then John spent the next ten months writing the screenplay. Raising the finance for the film was not an easy task; we agreed that the film would only work if each of the actors in the many roles was exactly right for the part: we did not just want to throw in a couple of famous “names” for the sake of getting financial backing irrespective of whether they were right for the script. This can be anathema to film backers, but fortunately our financiers understood what we were trying to achieve, so we had a free hand to choose the cast we felt exactly fitted the roles.
Ironically the French company StudioCanal, which owns the back catalogue of Ealing Comedies, has had such success recently with TV and DVD re-releases of the movies, that it is now intending to completely remake some the of the movies starting later this year. 12 in a Box is already here, so hopefully our timing is just right for the film.”
Writer/director John McKenzie: “the challenge with 12 in a Box was first not just to lift an Ealing comedy plot and transpose it to 2006, but produce a completely original storyline for the screenplay. Then during the making of the film, ensure performances and a filmic style true to the Ealing Comedy philosophy, which I feel has a gentle understated style with elements of farce, rather than a knockabout slapstick “look how funny we are” format.
All the cast give excellent performances in the movie, with a nicely balanced combination of understatement and absurd eccentricity which characterised the Ealing Comedy genre. There are some very farcical, mad moments in the film, but generally it provides laid back, gentle entertainment as the film eases into its pace and then builds in momentum as the story unfolds towards an increasingly frenetic climax. Whether it works as a film is something only audiences can decide, but what we think we have achieved is a uniquely British movie which will also appeal to a worldwide audience.”