Bruce Brown was born in San Francisco on December 1, 1937 and grew up in Southern California, attending school in Long Beach before moving to Dana Point. Even though Brown already had a successful movie to his credit, he found that financing a film on motorcycling wasn’t going to be easy.
“I talked to a few folks and knew that Steve McQueen was a keen rider,” Brown said. “Even though I’d never met him, I set up a meeting to talk about doing “On Any Sunday”. We spoke about the film concept, which he liked. Then Steve asked what I wanted him to do in the film. I replied by wanting him to finance it. He laughed and told me he acted in films; he didn’t finance them. I then jokingly told him, ‘Alright, then, you can’t be in the movie.’ The next day after the meeting, I got a call and it was McQueen. He told me to go ahead and get the ball rolling with the movie - he’d back it. His financial contribution was set at 313,000 US dollars.”
Filming the movie often proved to be a challenging experience for Brown. Some of the most dramatic shots of the movie were the extreme closeup slow-motion segments of the Grand National races. From his surfing movie days, Brown was used to working with super telephoto lenses. The budget didn’t allow the expense of high-speed cameras, so Brown improvised by using 24-volt batteries in the 12-volt film cameras. Brown tried to show the unique talents needed for the different forms of racing. For instance, the motocross riders were free-spirited, while desert racers were often loners. In Grand National racing, Brown showed the differing personalities, such as the business-like approach displayed by Mert Lawwill versus the carefree style that wild rookie David Aldana became known for.
“On Any Sunday” is generally acknowledged as the best movie ever made about motorcycles and bike racing. It helped spur the explosive growth during the 1970s and Brown’s film conveyed the fun and enjoyment that motorcycling added to people’s lives. It also documented the 1970 season of AMA Grand National racing by following defending champion Mert Lawwill. Many people from all walks of life took up motorcycling after seeing the movie, which became a great success, also being nominated for an Academy Award.
“On Any Sunday” became a cultural movie that will tease bike folks in eternity – looking around their next corner for the rest of the life!