Le Mans is the most discussed, debated, and beloved auto racing film of all time. The author was the prop master for the movie and experienced all the drama associated with its production. He describes the six months spent filming at Le Mans, illustrated with the many photographs he took of the race itself and the drama of the surrounding events.
Revisiting and reliving a movie that was a critical failure and box-office disappointment at the time of its release – and a miserable experience for everyone involved – was unsettling. But ask any motoring aficionado what is his favoring racing picture of all-time, and it is guaranteed that nine times out of ten it will be Le Mans with an exclamation point. There was nothing positive to say about the 106-minute motion picture when principal photography commenced in June 1970. Five months later when filming finished, there was no wrap party, no toasts, no grand farewells; everyone just quietly went away, relieved that their ordeal was finally over.
Steve McQueen was a real-life racing fanatic, and Le Mans was his passion. But the movie left him with bitter feelings and lasting emotional dents in his armor. There were conflicts with directors, personal excesses, budget woes, a war with the studio, a shutdown, months of delays, an unfortunate accident that left one driver without a leg, and rumors that the production company hushed up the death of a second crew member. McQueen lost control of the project he had planned to make for over a decade. After a savaging by critics when first released, the film has finally received the approbation its star dreamed about and leaves an indelible legacy in the auto racing and movie worlds.
Don Nunley followed his father into the film industry in 1959. He has film credits as a property master, set decorator and production designer, and has been a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1977. In his 30 years on motion picture sets, he worked with Jack Lemmon, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Gilda Radner, Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Robert DeNiro, and many other notable actors. Nunley also started the first product placement agency in Hollywood, working to get products into movies and TV shows. His company was responsible for E.T. drinking Coors beer, Tom Cruise wearing RayBan sunglasses for ”Top Gun” and “Risky Business,”and Robin Williams finding his first job in America at McDonalds in "Moscow Across the Hudson."
Nunley has been called upon to lecture at colleges, and on cruise ships. He also consults with Hollywood studios on product placement.