Helen Hunt and the Atticus Hotel

There’s an iconic pairing set right here in McMinnville and it involves two unexpected candidates – actress Helen Hunt and the Atticus Hotel. Best known for her work in films like blockbuster drama “Twister” and romantic comedy “As Good As It Gets,” Hunt jump-started her impressive career by way of a role based right here in McMinnville. 

In 1983, Hunt starred in Quarterback Princess,” a little known but much adored movie about a high school girl overcoming sexism. Hunt’s character, Tami Maida, battled her way onto the all boys club otherwise known as the high school football roster. En route, she won the hearts of the town and – without giving too much away – was crowned homecoming queen. Inspired by a real story, the movie was shot almost entirely in McMinnville and featured many locals as extras. It also launched what would end up being a long and fruitful acting career for Hunt.

The Supporting Cast

McMinnville folks take special pleasure in the film, noticing landmark after landmark in its highly localized makeup. Quarterback Princess may have changed the town name to Minnville – for apparent legal reasons – but our fair city sticks out like a sore thumb, from the historic bustle of Third Street to the nearby high school and its actual mascot, the Grizzlies. The film offers two major takeaways. First, then 20-year-old Helen Hunt was destined for fame. Second, it feels like a love letter to small town Willamette Valley life (plus a few dated social stereotypes). 

Being a made-for-TV movie, Quarterback Princess has its share of embellishments and fact-stretching. The real Tami Maida played for nearby Philomath High School in 1981, starting a pair of games during the team’s triumphant 7-1 season. She had come down with her family from Canada as her father finished off his doctorate at nearby Oregon State University. The movie gets the gist of this correct and likely picked McMinnville for its set-like charm. 

Other prominent names appearing in the cast of Quarterback Princess include Don Murray (T.J. Hooker, Twin Peaks), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River) and Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs). It was never going to take home any awards but for those with close ties to McMinville, the movie is legendary. Which is precisely why the film’s heroine, played by Helen Hunt, is near and dear to the Atticus Hotel’s heart.

Recognized with a Room 

Hunt is one of two pop icons spotlighted at the Atticus Hotel. A balcony suite on the third floor of the Atticus Hotel bears her name. The other is appropriately named Howard Hughes, the aviation star and brains behind the Spruce Goose. The world’s largest plane is housed just a couple of miles from downtown McMinnville at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. 

If you haven’t seen Quarterback Princess or you simply want to revisit this overshadowed, Oregon-centric gem, we strongly encourage you to do so. It can be streamed online in its entirety but the best way, by far, is to watch our house copy from our cozy balcony suite overlooking many of the landmarks showcased in the film. 

The Helen Hunt Room in the Atticus Hotel in McMinnville, Oregon