Friday, April 26, 2013

ARNOLD'S STUNT MAN: THE PETER KENT INTERVIEW

Actor and Legendary Hollywood stuntman Peter Kent talks with TV Store Online about his experiences working on The Terminator films and his friendship with Arnold Schwarnenegger.

It's probably safe to assume that you're just like us, and that your favorite moments in any Arnold Schwarnenegger movie are those that feature some of those big over-the-top stunts.  Whether it's Arnold jumping his motorcycle off an freeway overpass chasing after the evil T-1000 cyborg, or when he's surfing on top of a turned on its side semi truck  that's sliding and sparking its way into a steel factory, these moments are what we all live to see in every Arnold movie, right?

(Photo credit: IMDB)
But what about the guy that works behind-the-scenes to create these incredible stunts for us and Arnold for that matter?  Arnold is just an actor as we all know, right?  So who is the man behind these memorable life endangering Hollywood  moments?  Meet Peter Kent.

Actor and legendary Hollywood stuntman Peter Kent was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1957.   As a kid, Kent was an adrenaline junkie.   Often risking life and limb from an early age, Kent would climb trees and purposely fall from them.  He'd shoot the rapids on the nearby Seymour River close to his childhood home without supervision, and ride his bicycle across high planks in the air.   Thrill seeking was something that was in Kent's blood from the start, but another interest he was quick to develop as well was his love for acting.

As a trained theatrical actor in Canada, Kent moved in 1983 to Los Angeles to pursue a serious film career.   After a couple years and a handful of walk-on roles in film and television, Kent got his big break when he went in to meet with director James Cameron after seeing an ad in a Hollywood trade paper for stand-in work on a new film being produced called, The Terminator (1984).

By stretching the truth in regards to his work experience, Peter Kent got hired on the landmark Sci-Fi / action film, and quickly became one of the productions most used stunt men as well as Arnold Schwarnenegger's double, and a friend to the film's star as well.

His association with Schwarzenegger would span 14 films over a 13 year period, and the two would not just become friends, but workout partners as well.   Kent would work closely with Arnold on such films as The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Total Recall, The Running Man, Kindergaten Cop, Twins, Eraser, Raw Deal, Red Heat, and Jingle All The Way before returning back home to his Canadian birthplace to teach stunt work.

Kent's stunt school can be found HERE: (http://www.peterhkent.com/1school.shtml)
Kent's official website can be found HERE:  (http://www.peterhkent.com/)
Follow Peter on Facebook HERE:  (https://www.facebook.com/peter.kent.98284)

Fans can check out Peter Kent's wonderful autobiography, Stand Or Fall published via Anchor Books HERE


TV STORE ONLINE:   In terms of how you got your start in the movie business....You sort of had to stretch the truth a bit in order to get hired onto your first job which was on The Terminator (1984), didn't you?
PETER KENT:  Yeah, pretty much.   I had been set up by a casting agency to go over and meet with the director of The Terminator James Cameron.  Because I originally just went in to see him to be a stand-in for lighting.  So I walked in and Cameron walked out of his office looked at me and said, "You're here for the Arnold thing, right?"  I mean obviously he noticed my height.  Then he said, "You're perfect."  The way he said it took me by shock, because he had said it so fast.   Then he took about three steps away from me, he stopped, and turned back around and said, "Have you ever done any stunts before?"
I thought to myself... What is he asking here?  If I say the wrong thing here I might not  get the other job.   So I told him yes.   Cameron knew I was from Vancouver,  so he must have noticed my Canadian accent.  He asked me where I was from, and I told him, and he told me that he was from Toronto.   So there was some common ground between us.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   So getting your first job as a stunt man on The Terminator what was your first experience like meeting Arnold Schwarnenegger?
PETER KENT:   My mom gave me the best piece of advice about that.   I called her after that first day I had worked with him on The Terminator, because I went on to the set and I was there just shaking my head and going "Holy smokes. I can't believe I'm here."    So my mom just told me that if the work was to continue on with him that I should just treat Arnold as if he was just like everybody else and that's what I did. 
I think the reason why Arnold and I got along so well was because I wasn't one of his "Yes" men.   If I thought he was wrong about something, I told him that I thought he was wrong.  I actually learned German out of self preservation, because Arnold would curse at me in German and I didn't know what the heck he was saying.    Then later on,  I could speak to him in German on the set  and we'd discuss how he wanted to approach certain scenes because I've got an acting background as well as you know.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Over the years in print and on the internet many stories have surfaced in regards to how James Cameron has treated some of the actors in his films.   There was that rumor that Cameron wouldn't allow his actors to have bathroom breaks during the shooting of Terminator 2 (1991) or how he supposedly treated Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio on the set of The Abyss (1989)...Did you ever see any of these alleged eccentric behaviors in your experiences working with him?
PETER KENT:  Somewhat I guess.  The thing is....He never adopted that attitude until after The Abyss and well into the making of T2 [Terminator 2: Judgement Day].   I mean, on the original TERMINATOR he wasn't like that.   By the time we got to working on T2, I had already got to know him and I had already worked with him, so when I saw some of that...I just laughed it off.   
With the exception of Arnold, he hated it when he'd see someone sleeping in their chair on the set of T2.  It didn't matter if they were exhausted from shooting all night.  It didn't matter if they weren't part of the shot or the scene, he hated it.    He hated people reading on his set too.   I would be sitting there waiting to work and I would be reading the paper, and he'd walk by me, grab the paper and rip it down the middle.   I would just take it and put it back together and  look over the top of it and I'd swear at him.  He'd just look at me and shake his head (laughing). 
I remember one night on T2 where we were shooting that scene at the end of the movie in the steel plant, where Arnold is all messed up, he's got that robot eye , he's got that steel bar in his chest and he's coming up that conveyor belt with the rocket launcher?  You remember that scene?

TV STORE ONLINE:  For sure.
PETER KENT:    I did a bunch of that stuff.  The twitching of the hand in the scene for example.  James Cameron and I did all of that stuff together at like five in the morning in that steel plant.  We were exhausted. But it was a blast, we were talking back and forth to each other in Scottish accents. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  So having to bluff your way on to your first job on The Terminator, you didn't have actual stunt man experience, so how did you know or learn how to do any of that work?
PETER KENT:  Well, I came from a background with a lot of athleticism in it.  As a kid I would climb up trees and fall through the branches just to see if I could do it.   I studied martial arts when I was younger.  I used to race motorcycles.  I ran track and field.  So those things came into play, but there's also a certain stage that you reach where none of that stuff is enough.  You need high fall and wire experience. 
I managed to bluff my way through with the help of stuntman Frank Orsatti on The Terminator.  Then when I worked with Arnold on Commando (1985), a fellow named Bob Yerkes took me under his wing along with many others and he had a huge facility out in the San Fernado valley for training.  He just basically helped shape guys like me. He taught me high falls, high wire and trapeze work and never charged any of us a penny.  He did out of the goodness of his heart.  That's one of the reasons why I run my own stunt school today here in Canada is because of him.   I would never have what I have today if it wasn't for him.   So that's why I train people today because there are people out there that want that opportunity but don't have the means.   Do you remember that motorcycle jump in T2?

TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course. I wanted to ask you about that.  What goes through your mind before you do something like jump a motorcycle off an overpass?  That's a classic film moment now, right?
PETER KENT:  Yeah. It's what got me into The Hollywood Stuntman's Hall of Fame.  That whole thing was done on a wire system.  It was something that hadn't been done before.  So we tested it quite a bit, because just landing that was quite iffy because it's difficult to control the landing.  We did it a handful of times before we got it right.  One time we did it, and I landed and the brake pedal on the bike broke off so I had no control over the bike.  It was pretty exciting.
NOTE:  SCENE OF MOTORCYCLE JUMP:



TV STORE ONLINE:  What about the big stunt in T2 where Arnold jumps from the back of that pick-up truck and on to the big rig and surfs it?
PETER KENT:   James Cameron has said in the past that he would never do that truck transfer from T2 now if he had too in present day because of how dangerous it was.  I mean that's one of those defining moments in my stunt career and I can remember thinking at that time that  I wasn't going to make it out of that stunt alive.
TV STORE ONLINE:   Right, I wanted to ask you about that.  How do you prepare mentally to do something like that T2 truck transfer stunt?  I mean do you have a sense of danger?
PETER KENT:   Well, I have a sense of self preservation.  When I did that, when I had to go across the back of the pick up truck deck and onto the big rig....We drove that big rig into the back of that empty little truck, remember?  We tried it first at a couple different speeds,  but  we noticed that by doing that, it was making the little truck shimmy, and if that truck was shimmying it was going to throw me from the back of it and I'd be thrown under the big truck's tires and be squashed. 
We tried putting a safety cable on me as well, but I figured that if I had a cable on and something went wrong that I'd have no chance to move away from the big rig if I had to in the last second.  So  I had to do the stunt without a safety line on.  I had to move across the back of that little pick-up truck and jump onto that big rig at 60 miles per hour. 
One of the trickest parts of the stunt was when I had to go from the truck cab and into that truck bed.  That was tricky because I had to step down from the top of the cab and into the bed, and it was a step that could've thrown me off from the truck cause it really threw your balance.   So what I did was take some finishing nails and I nailed them threw the wood floor so that the nail heads were poking upward.   I did that so when I walked I could step onto the nails, like I was wearing a hopnailed boot, and it would give me like a super grip before I made the jump to the big rig.
We rehearsed the stunt and then James Cameron decided that we'd go to lunch before we did it.  My stomach was in knots.  I went up to Cameron and asked him if we could just do it before we went to lunch.   He stood up grabbed his bullhorn and told the crew that we were going to shoot the stunt right then.   The thing about that was.... Union rules on film sets are specific about when a crew goes to lunch.  So by skipping the lunch break it penalized the production and it cost Cameron probably like $20,000 dollars just so we could do the stunt right then and there.   After we finished that first take, I just laid there on the top of that big rig and just start kicking my heels on the hood because I was so happy to be alive.
Cameron actually wanted me to do it again because after I had did it, he came up to me and asked if I could "slow it down" while I was running across the back bed of the little truck.  That's whats called the "kill zone."  It's the most dangerous spot in the stunt.  So there was no way I was going to go again.  After a few minutes he realized that he could just slow it down in post production, so it all worked out.   I had a very good relationship with James Cameron.  We developed a sort of mutual respect, even though he had that sort of firey temper. I think he knew that I'd never put up with that.  I always gave him what he wanted.  I remember on TRUE LIES (1994) we were doing that scene where the truck jack knifes and it explodes and Arnold dives away from it into the water, you remember that?
TV STORE ONLINE:  Of course.
PETER KENT:  Cameron was yelling at me because I had been erroneously sent to lunch.  So when I got back we started arguing back and forth and it almost came to fisticuffs.  He put his fists up and I said, "You throw one and I'll throw one."   He walked away, cooled down and shortly afterward came up to me as I was getting read to do the stunt, and I asked him, "What kind of dive do you want?"  He said, "Harry Tasker is a pro, make it a ten."   So I gave him a ten and afterward when I came up out of the water he gave me a big hug and said, "That was perfect!"

TV STORE ONLINE:   So what was your first stunt on The Terminator?
PETER KENT:  The first stunt, first day was where 'The Terminator' is driving in that downtown parking lot looking for 'Reese' and 'Sarah'.    We did that in downtown at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  I was doing the driving and shooting the shotgun out the window.  
The stunt that really got me on The Terminator was the scene in the dance club where Arnold takes the shotgun blast to the chest and it throws him backyard through that giant glass window.   That was when Frank Orsatti walked up to me and said, "You need a ramp in here?"  What he was really asking me was if I wanted a ramp built up to the window so I could fall through the window without getting cut.  I looked at him with a vacant stare because I had no clue what he was talking about, and I thought I was actually going to get fired.  Frank then said to me, "You have no clue what you're doing do you?" I just looked at him, and then he said, "Well, I can't have you getting killed on my show, so let's make this work."
TV STORE ONLINE:  It's funny exactly how much your experiences on The Terminator parallel the 1980 movie, The Stunt Man. 
PETER KENT:  Yeah, I was just gonna say that too.  In fact at one point I actually gave James Cameron a signed poster of The Stunt Man.   I said, "Look Jim, that's you.  You're Peter O'Toole the director with the devil and tail hanging down."     There's a lot in that movie that parallels my own life.
TV STORE ONLINE:  There's that photo of you and Arnold from the first Terminator that's clearly from the jailhouse scene in the movie.  What did you have to do with that sequence in the movie?
PETER KENT:   I drove the car into the front desk in there.  I did a lot of the shootout stuff in there.  I mean the effects guys just destroyed that set.  It was a practical location too. It was a set that was left over from something else.  We had to bring in all of those massive glass dividers that you see in the scene. There were like 30 or 40 of them. We even had extra glass dividers on hand in case we had to do it all over again.  Those glass dividers were blown out by squibs and also by high pressure ball barrings that were the size of your thumb. Those were shot out of high pressure air guns.  If you were to get hit by one of those barrings you'd be dead, so we had stunt men just diving all over the place, in and out of frame and it was all set off by the moment when I squeezed the trigger on that machine gun I was carrying.  It was total mayhem.  
In fact, shooting that sequence was the first time I actually ran a foul with James Cameron too.  We were getting ready to shoot. We had everything set up.  We had rehearsed it like twenty times.  I can remember James saying something like, "OK..Rolling now Peter, this is all on you....and action"   But I froze.  I waited a couple seconds but I couldn't squeeze the trigger and I said "Cut."  Now you don't say that on any film set.  But I did and Cameron just exploded. He said,  "What the hell are you doing!?!?"   I mean, we had rehearsed this over and over but something wasn't right.  Maybe it was something in my subconscious that figured it out, but I noticed that our set-up wasn't right.  I said to Cameron, "Whoa, listen to me Jim... That guy over there..."  I pointed over to one of the stunt guys. "He's diving right into there, right?"   The stunt guy nods at me.  Then I said to the effects guy, "Isn't that where your first shot goes to blow that divider out?"  The effects guy nodded to me.  I said to James Cameron, "Jim, he's gonna get shot right in the face!"   The effects guy looked at the stunt man. Cameron looked at me, and we all looked at each other.  Cameron looked at me and said, "You're right.  I'll give you that one. Now let's fix it and carry on."  I mean, we had rehearsed it over and over but no one saw it.  
TV STORE ONLINE:  How long did you work on The Terminator?
PETER KENT:  About five or six weeks I think.   On T2 I worked for six months, and I was in makeup wearing a mask of Arnold's face for 66 days on that movie.
TV STORE ONLINE:   Right, I wanted to ask you about that.   I mean, what's does your own personality go through when you're mimicking someone for so long?
PETER KENT:  Nothing really.  I just looked at it as if I was just trying to be the best that I could be at my job. I worked with Arnold for fifteen years.   I even learned to walk like Arnold, and I got so good at doing his voice that I used to call down to room service and order stuff for myself and tell them to put it on his bill (laughing).
TV STORE ONLINE:  What's your favorite memory of working on The Terminator?
PETER KENT:  We were shooting at Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles.  It was a night shoot and we were doing that scene where he first appears in the movie and he's naked.   We had been shooting for a few weeks at that point, and he was really nervous about doing the nude scene.  So he ordered some sushi and some sake and had it delivered to his trailer, and he asked me to come and join him.  Before they started shooting the scene....They had set up this tent for him with a propane heater in it to keep him warm after he had stripped down. 
They did the first take of the scene and the wind was just blowing like crazy and he was still a little drunk from the sake. It was cold out there, I had a jacket on, and as the wind got stronger I said to him, "If this keeps up you're going to freeze your dick off."  He looked at me and said [In Arnold's voice], "Peter, I know the balls, they're already gone."  
TV STORE ONLINE:  Then working on Commando with Arnold was probably a different experience that working on The Terminator?
PETER KENT:   It was funny because when I finished Terminator I was really sad because I thought that it had been a one shot deal.  I didn't think I'd work with him again, and it was a lot of fun working with everyone on The Terminator.  But I got some other work afterward.  I did some things and I got into the union.  After a while Arnold called me and said, "I've got this script called Commando why don't you come over and we'll go through it and we'll talk."     I was a English major in college and I was a Shakespearean actor before I became a stunt man.  Arnold used to call me his Shakespearean stunt man.  I would often read with him, and would help him rehearse his dialogue.
TV STORE ONLINE:  There's also a certain public perception in regards to Arnold Schwarnenegger.  Having known him so well do you think the perception is accurate in regards to his public and real personality?
PETER KENT:  You know...There's two sides to the coin for sure.  There's the face that he wants everyone to see and then there's the real face, but they're not drastically different.  He tended to be a bit more outlandish in public than he would be privately, just because everyone was always watching. 
I remember we were in Chicago shooting Raw Deal (1986) and we went clothes shopping at the Watertower.   We went into a store and he finds this suit jacket and puts it on.  He looks at me and says, "Watch this."  There are all of these salesmen swarming around because they not only want the sale but it's Arnold Schwarnenegger.   He then proceeds to tell one of them that he can't get the suit jacket off.   So all of these salesmen start to try to help him get off this coat, and they can't get it off!   He had actually just flexed his shoulder muscles to keep the jacket tight on him.   The salesmen are struggling and Arnold's saying stuff like [In Arnold's voice], "C'mon you guys!  I've got somewhere I've got to be. Get this thing off me."    Then finally he just lets go and the jacket goes sliding off him and the salemen fall to the floor (laughing).  
TV STORE ONLINE:  What were some of the stunts you did on Commando?  Did you do that big swing across the lobby of the mall?
PETER KENT:  No, I didn't do that one.  That was done by Bob Yerkes.   That was the whole reason why I went to train with him though because he knew how bad I wanted to do that.   I did stuff like paddling the boat coming into shore.  Taking off in the flying boat.  Doing the jump down for the El Presidente sequence.   I did some of the shooting stuff in the gardens.
TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you do any of the fight stuff with Vernon Wells at the end of the film?
PETER KENT:   I did... In the final scene in the steam plant.  
TV STORE ONLINE:  You worked on The Running Man (1987) with Arnold as well, what was that experience like?
PETER KENT:  It was OK.  It was a bit hellish actually.   It was sort of my least memorable experience.   But it was OK.   Arnold did all of his own skating actually which was great, because I can't skate.  I did some of that stuff where Arnold's being dragged behind that motorcycle.
TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you get to wear that yellow spandex outfit that Arnold wears in the movie?
PETER KENT:  Oh Yeah...Oh Yeah (Laughing).
TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you get to spend any time talking with Richard Dawson on that shoot?
PETER KENT:   A little bit.  He used to come in every morning with a cup of coffee that was in no way shape or form coffee.  He was hammered every day by like 9:30 a.m.    I don't actually remember shooting anything with him after lunch because usually he was just too drunk.   I actually have a great picture of him where he's holding his cup of coffee with his pinkie up, because every morning he'd come in doing this and he'd say, "Good morning darlings..."
TV STORE ONLINE:  Then what about Predator (1987) what was that shoot like?
PETER KENT:  That was a very tough shoot.   It was a lot of work and being a long way from home.  It was a lot of fun, and we all knew that it was going to be a cool movie once it was all finished, but it was very tough.   The same with Total Recall (1990).   We shot Total Recall in Mexico City and I was there on that for like six months.
TV STORE ONLINE:   Are all of the rumors true about Total Recall?  I mean there were all of these supposed troubles with all of these different directors being involved in the project.  The film was given an 'X' rating by the M.P.A.A.?  And then I've heard that many got food poisoning during the production as well?
PETER KENT:  Oh Yeah.   Everybody was in rough shape.   My stories aren't fit for your website though. Everyone was in rough shape with that food poisoning situation.   There were some scenes that were cut from the final movie for whatever reason but I don't know why.  The director Paul [Verhoven] is such a crazy and brilliant guy.  We were into many of the same things so we had these massive conversations at the expense of the crew often.
TV STORE ONLINE: Really quick...Going back to Predator.  I've read stories too over the years that supposedly a young Jean Claude Van Damme was originally cast to be the actor in the suit for the 'Predator' creature.  Any truth to that?
PETER KENT: Yes, that's true.   He was originally the guy that was supposed to be in the suit.   He was told that it was gonna be a rough shoot, that it was going to be hot inside that suit.   He complained every moment he was there until finally one day producer Joel Silver came onto the set and told him, "Your plane ticket is on the bed of your hotel, now get off my set." And those weren't the nice words that he actually used.
TV STORE ONLINE:  There must have been some incredible machismo on that set.  There's yourself, Arnold, Carl Weathers, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Bill Duke....
PETER KENT:  Oh Yeah.  There were many crazy nights out on the town too.   I mean, we'd go out with Jesse in his feather boa, rhinestone glasses, and tiger print tights and you could hear the collective jaws drop of the people like dinner plates in the bars we'd go to down in Mexico.
TV STORE ONLINE:  You also worked with Arnold on Last Action Hero (1993).  You did that big fall off the building right?  What was that experience like?
PETER KENT:   Well, it was an eighteen story wire drop from a building and I had never done that before.  It's a monumental rigging job.  Basically if the rigging isn't done right you're a dead man.  They call it "dope on a rope"  cause you're just hanging there. You fall, then they pull you back up to the top, and then they drop again.   I bought all of the riggers on that watches afterward because my life was really in their hands.  It was really intense because you're just hanging there eighteen stories above waiting for the cameras below to pull focus.  So it gets really intense just being suspended there while you're waiting to shoot, you're sitting there saying, "Uh...Hey guys?  This is getting really intense up here."
TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you do the tar pit fall from the crane in the movie?
PETER KENT:  I did.  That was stuff nasty.  It wasn't tar it was the same stuff that they dye and make Oreo cookies out of.   The effects guy said that the stuff wouldn't stain your skin, but both Arnold and I had our skin dyed by it. Mine was worse than his because I had to wallow around in it, and for a couple days afterward we both had this weird blackish green tint to our skin.  That fall was a bit iffy because of the depth too.  I had to be very careful to make sure to pull my legs up before I hit that nasty mess otherwise I would've broke my legs or maybe worse.
The best part of that whole thing was that they told me only forty-five seconds before I was about to go to do the fall exactly how deep it was and that we only had one chance to pull it off.   It was quite iffy.
TV STORE ONLINE:  I'd be remiss if we didn't ask you about working with director Albert Pyun on the cult classic movie, Nemesis (1992).  What was that experience like?
PETER KENT:   It was great.  I love Albert. I call him "Maximum Albert."  I really enjoyed working with Albert because it almost had a very James Cameron kind of feeling to it.  He always knew exactly what he wanted and he was totally involved in the action sequences. I was  'Mr. Purple' in that.   
TV STORE ONLINE:   Checking out the trailer online for your new movie, Superheros Don't Need Capes (2013) I wanted to see what was the inspiration behind the story?
PETER KENT:  My friend and I wrote it because it was based on his true story.   I directed the second unit stuff in the movie. It was just one of those things that just came together very quickly.  I'm also running my stunt school of course too here in Canada.
TRAILER FOR SUPERHEROS DON'T NEED CAPES:  

 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Can you give us one more Arnold story?
PETER KENT:  I used to cook for him. Arnold was a big fan of my spaghetti.  He'd say, [In Arnold's voice] "Peter make the spaghetti... Make the sauce..."   I actually used the sauce as a weapon on Arnold once.  While we were working on Kindergaten Cop (1990) he had to do this big scene with Penelope Ann Miller.   The day before they were supposed to shoot this big scene,  I told him that I was going to bring him in my spaghetti for lunch that next day.  But this time I got out my juicer, and I juiced in like everything I could think of that would give him gas.   I juiced in like Broccoli , Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower and I mixed it all into the sauce. 
After he ate lunch he went back to the set, and about forty minutes later I went to the set to check in on him and he pulled me aside by the arm and said, [In Arnold's voice] " Peter, what have you done to me?  I can't stop farting..."  I guess Penelope Ann Miller had actually complained to the director about the stench.  I just told him, "Look, there's nothing wrong with the sauce. It's the same as it's always been..."   I could barely keep a straight face and afterward I ran out the door of the soundstage and I literally fell and started to roll around on the ground laughing.  I finally confessed all of this to him about five years later. 
TV STORE ONLINE:  What did he say?
PETER KENT:   All he said was, [In Arnold's voice]  "You Bastard."