When you think of Tatooine from “Star Wars,” you imagine a harsh desert landscape where Luke Skywalker starts his journey to become a Jedi. Or what about “The Shire” in “Lord of the Rings”? You picture Frodo and the rest of the hobbits frolicking through the bright green hillsides.
While these places are set in fantasy worlds, they’re actual locations in our world… and someone is responsible for finding them. For Quentin Tarantino’s "The Hateful Eight," that was location scout John Minor.
[I always say], Oh, I can find that! And then they throw that last thing on there and you go, Oh, that’s gonna make it hard.
Minor has been a location scout for more than 20 years. For his latest challenge, he was tasked to find a ridge with a dramatic mountain in the background for “The Hateful Eight.”
That was challenging. There’s only so much of this open country left in the United States. Being that specific, you can look at a map and [say], There’s a mountain range, those are the places I’m gonna go see what I can find.
MARVIN SCHMID: John definitely nailed it. Quentin came and looked at it and that was it.
Marvin Schmid owns the Schmid Family Ranch in Telluride, Colorado. His family built the ranch in the late 1800s. It sits on a vast green plain, right at the edge of a forest that leads straight to the mountain known as Wilson Peak.
SCHMID: That mountain right there is the most amazing thing.
MINOR: The clouds change. The lighting. It’s amazing.
SCHMID: Right now you could just see it changing with the light and you get the morning sun and the evening sun on it. It’s pretty amazing.
Tarantino isn’t the only person who’s fallen in love with the picturesque view. It’s been used in numerous films and commercials, and you’ve probably seen it before.
SCHMID: Wilson Peak is Coors Mountain. That’s the signature mountain on all the beer cans.
Minor and Schmid met around the mid '90s, when Minor first found this location for a Marlboro commercial. He found it by doing a particular form of research.
MINOR: I’ll sit down at a diner and tell the [waitresses], “Hey, this is what I’m looking for.” If I see a highway patrol officer putting gas in his car, I’ll stop and ask them because they know the area really well. You kind of get a piece of a thread, and if you keep tugging at it, you’ll eventually get shown what’s around.
But once filming gets started, that’s when the hard work starts. And that’s what happened on "The Hateful Eight."
SCHMID: It was intense. I’ve never been around 200 people running around like crazy people.
A film crew of that size coming into a small town like Telluride — population about 2,000 — drew some concerns from the community over increased traffic, road blocks and other disruptions to daily life. It was Minor’s task to handle those concerns.
MINOR: My job was to be the liaison of the film and…
SCHMID: The community.
MINOR: Yeah, normal people. And so I was very open when I first came here [and said,] If there’s an issue, here’s my phone number. So the whole town had my cell number.
One of the first things Minor had to do was let all the people living near the Schmid Family Ranch know a film crew would be shooting for a few months. And that’s when he met a woman named Amber.
MINOR: Amber and I have a funny story. Her friend said, “What do you think? Someone’s just gonna knock on the door and that’s how you’re gonna meet a guy?” So now she says, “Yeah, that’s exactly what happened! He knocked on my door to scout and [laugh] now we’re dating!”
Word spread throughout the crew and it became obvious that Minor and Amber had a connection.
MINOR: So before we even started dating, my construction crew was trying to catch me out at dinner. They said, “We kept looking for you at the restaurants, trying to come to set early to see if your car was there. We never caught you!” Well, I said, “There’s nothing going on.” [laughs]
SCHMID: He didn’t have time.
MINOR: No [laughs.]
Minor knew that work came first. But his relationship with Amber did raise some eyebrows… since she is Marvin Schmid’s daughter.
MINOR: We didn’t tell him at first.
MINOR: He kind of knew though…
SCHMID: I think that my daughter said something to me and he said something to me so I knew before they knew.
But again, Minor kept it professional throughout the entire shoot. And when filming was done, he returned to Los Angeles and took a U-Haul back to Telluride to move in with Amber. Now, Minor has become a part of the Schmid family, helping out at the ranch when he’s not location scouting.
MINOR: And what do you do when your girlfriend’s father says, “Help me irrigate”? You grab a shovel. [Laughs.]
Minor and Schmid have seen more and more tourists and Tarantino fans driving through the property to see where “The Hateful Eight” was filmed.
MINOR: We had a few people come up to see the set and came down real dejected because all they saw was dirt.
SCHMID: We didn’t have “No Trespassing” signs until he came.
"The Hateful Eight" is in select theaters on Christmas Day then opens wide on Jan. 1.