Lights, Camera, Action! — The history of movies filmed in Colorado
Ah, the Oscars. A time for us to rewind and remember all of the films that made us laugh, squeal, cry, and brim over with feeling. Over the weekend, we saw the awards go to Moonlight, Zootopia, and La La Land, and witnessed the emotional acceptances of some of the winners. I thought it would be interesting to look back on some of the famous movies that have been filmed right here in Boulder and in some of our close neighboring cities.
Perhaps the most famous recent film shot in Colorado was “The Hateful Eight”, Tarantino’s latest film which featured a bounty hunter and his prisoner seeking shelter in a cabin inhabited by some nefarious criminals. The film is bloody, funny, and excellently written, and located not too far from Boulder in Telluride, CO. Tarantino put out feelers in Utah and Wyoming, before settling on the Colorado location. Tarantino wanted a mountain range in the background, and they approached Marvin Schmid who owned the Schmid Family Ranch in Tulleride. The farm is located on a vast green plain, on the edge of a forest, that leads to the base of a mountain range called Wilson’s Peak. This picturesque view would become the main location for the film. The shooting also helped with some economic growth in the town, the film crew frequenting local shops for warm clothes, snow tires, and help with some of the costumes and props. The California crew and cast were so worried about their actors being cold that they even added high tech, wind-resistant fabric layers between costumes. And if you watch the film, it does look pretty snowy and desolate out there on Schmid’s farm, but the crew made it. They spent 46 days in the Colorado location and the film was released Christmas day 2015.
Another bloody, but well done famous film shot in Colorado, was the mini-series “The Stand”, based off the Stephen King novel of the same name. In the series, an influenza-like plague is accidentally released from a top-secret government base in California. It almost kills the entire population, except for a select few who appear to be immune to the disease. The few survivors have collective dreams that guide them to a farm in Nebraska, where an old woman named Mother Abigail tells them they will find safety in Boulder, CO. Select scenes are filmed in Boulder, but unfortunately, much of the film was then moved to Utah after a worker protest. Either way, the King did have Boulder in mind, having lived in Boulder for a short period of time in the 1970’s and wrote the novel, The Shining, during the sojourn. In an interview, King stated, “For a long time—ten years, at least—I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. Then . . . after my wife and kids and I moved to Boulder, Colorado…I was deep into The Stand.” And that’s pretty cool, Boulder as basically the Lord of the Ring’s version of Rivendell. I’ll take that.
Last, but certainly not least, nor encompassing all of the movies filmed here, is the 1969 western “True Grit”, featuring a grisly and worn John Wayne and a film location close to the San Juan Mountains. The amazing natural scenery of Colorado’s south west was a huge part of the film, and featured predominantly as the background for the movie that won John Wayne an academy award. The famous shootout scene was shot in Deb’s Meadow, near the Summit of Owl Creek pass, with Courthouse Mountain and Chimney Peak as it’s backdrop. Take a drive, park here, and witness some of the amazing scenery that made this movie and its lines so famous.