The new commercial promoting racial equality has justly deserved its media acclaim. It has made everyone wonder how life would be if we were from another race.
As if to prove this point, even some of the stars who took part were apprehensive they might end up looking foolish or damaging their images in some way. It says a lot for Lennox Lewis, Ken Livingstone, Chris Evans, Andy Cole, Gail Porter, Prince Naseem, Mel B (Scary Spice), David Seaman and Peter Stringfellow that they agreed to appear without knowing how they would look on screen.
'They had no control over the result,' Mark Wnek, the executive creative director of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, the agency that made the 60-second film for the Commission for Racial Equality, says. The agency, and the director Laurence Dunmore of RSA Films, were themselves unsure of the outcome until they worked with Flame artist Ant Walsham at The Mill and tried various effects with the footage of the specially made-up stars and doubles.
Evans, who appears as black, was originally going to be Asian. 'But we couldn't get the double to make it work,' Dunmore says. 'I wanted to double for Lennox Lewis, but we decided to change just his skin colour, not his features. Prince Naseem was doubled mainly by Ant. Scary Spice seems radically changed as a blonde, but her facial features are mainly the same.'
The transformations were so dramatic that they were featured in every national newspaper, with The Mirror giving over its front page to the black and bald Evans. The publicity has been valuable in raising awareness of the campaign, as budgets are tight.
Nearly everyone involved in making the spot - more than 140 people over 12 months - gave their services free, with only the film extras receiving minimal fees. Production at The Mill has been estimated at a value of pounds 700,000.
'We had to take the time as and when it was available, that's why it has taken so long to make,' Wnek says. He is delighted that the celebrities featured have been pleased with the finished film and that it has prompted other personalities to volunteer.
It makes up for some of the reluctance the agency encountered when it first approached some well-known names. 'I was amazed and a bit disillusioned by the number of people who wouldn't take part, both black into white and the other way round,'Wnek says.
The aim was to cover a wide spectrum, including politicians, sports heroes and showbiz personalities. Stringfellow was put in for 'a bit of cheek'.
Wnek believes the creative team behind the commercial, Peter Hardy and Nick Klinkert, have achieved 'precisely the right mix of people'.
'They were all a delight to work with,' Dunmore adds. 'Prince Naseem travelled down from Manchester off his own bat, but I had to convince him he wasn't going to look like an idiot, because he's a very proud man. Chris Evans turned up at the shoot on his scooter and kept his make-up on when he went to visit a friend in hospital to make him laugh.'
Because of budget restrictions, the filming was kept to motionless head shots which could more easily be replicated with doubles. Dunmore says this simplicity also emphasised the power of the idea.
'We didn't want to morph everyone. We wanted to create something that people could believe in and would make them think.'