Tuesday, 17 June 2014

When the going gets tough... The tough get a stuntman - An interview with Arnies main man, stuntman Peter Kent

So what does happens when a tough guy like Arnie doesn't want to throw himself out of a window or hang 35 feet in the air by his ankles? They get an even tougher guy to do it... This week we chat to Peter Kent, stuntman extraordinaire and man tougher than Arnie....

Born on June 23rd 1957 in Canada, Peter was always a thrill seeker and adrenaline addict, as a child he would climb the highest trees and let himself fall through the branches, resulting in many visits to the emergency room... So, there was really only one job he was destined to do.

Surviving a terrible car accident through will power alone he realised that the accident had somehow morphed his face into that of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and so Peter did the sensible thing - He packed up his things and headed to LA and after only six months he'd bagged the role of stunt double on James Cameron's classic 1984 Sci-Fi adventure movie "The Terminator"... No a bad start!

He caught on quickly and soon he had become one of the most celebrated - and highly paid - stuntmen in the business. He worked with Arnie on 14 movies, spanning over 13 years and considered him, not only a work buddy, but a friend, confidant, chef and dialogue coach...   And he also saved his skin once or twice too.... 

He was inducted into the 'Hollywood Stuntman's Hall of Fame" in June 2009 and now talks to Retro LadyLand....

                  ... So, go on tell us... Who is the best director to work for? - "I'd have to say it's a tossup between James Cameron and Walter Hill for me. I love working with both of them one for his genius and one for his gentleness." 
.....And the hardest to work for? - "I found Canadian director Ivan Reitman to be a terrible guy to work with in fact they named him Ivan the Terrible onset he was very rude to his crew. And to me on several occasions which almost cost him his teeth." 
You've doubled for Arnie lots of times, that must have been amazing! What was 'The Governator' like to work with? - "I had a great relationship with Arnold after working with him for 15 years as workout partner double, chef and confidante." 
... and I know there is a similarity, but you can't tell any difference on screen, so how did they get you to look so much like him?! - "I didn't exactly get to look like him, I  went through a wind-shield when I was a young guy and smashed my face up really good and They say that that's why ended up looking like Arnold."
And of course you worked on Stuart Gordon's cult classic 'Re-Animator' (1985), that must have been an experience - "Re-Animator was an awesome film to work on it was really campy as you can see on screen. Director Stuart Gordon was a treat to work with because he didn't organic theater director for most of his life. I had a great experience working with Bruce Abbott  and Jeffrey Combs as well."
Have you ever thought "But I look nothing like them?" while doing a stunt? - "Nope. I had much bigger things to worry about!!"
Have you ever been already to do a stunt and then the actor decides that they can do it for themselves? - "Yes in the case of Arnold and Commando I was ready to go through the French doors and crashed through the President's palace and Arnold decided to do it for himself and chipped his collarbone." - A lesson learned I suppose!
What's the worst injury you've had while 'on the job'? - "I broke my scapula, top three ribs,  collarbone and ankle on the film Eraser." - OOOHHHH, the poor bloke has been injured in some way during nearly all of Arnie's movies... And I think I can guess the answer to my next question... 

What about the most dangerous stunt you've done or co-ordinated? - "The same stunt that went bad on the on Eraser. Trying to do a drop on a 3 ton oversea shipping container from 100 feet in the air. The container ended up hitting me,  all 3 1/2 tons of it."  - It was on this movie that Peter was almost killed and where he decided to persue a less life-threatening line of work... 
What do you think of Early actors like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd who did their own stunts? What do you they would think of actors today? - "I watch Buster Keaton's work quite regularly- The General is my favorite movie. The guy was amazingly talented amazingly flexible and some of the stunts that he did were  mind blowingly dangerous. And all of it done without any safety pads or without much backup or safety systems in place. It's incredible the guy wasn't killed. I'm sure if he was alive today he be looking at the actors calling them all a bunch of wimps!!"
And how has life of a stunt double changed since film makers started to use more and more CGI? - "It's all changed because very little of it is actually practical now, it's mostly done in a safe soundstage in front of a green screen."
So what made you want to throw yourself through windows or setting yourself on fire? - "I never really wanted to be a stuntman it is just the way it happened when I went to Hollywood and met James Cameron. I was always a really crazy kid when I grew up in North Vancouver. Climbing the tallest trees and falling right out of them through the branches, Surfing my tricycle and bicycle down the street and crashing right I front of my dad. And that a whole bunch of car crashes a motorcycle crashes when I was younger that I managed to somehow survive." - So it really did come 
naturally to you then! 
Have you ever refused to do a stunt? Or have you ever had to tell a director that it can't be done? - "That's a funny question because there's some stunts I should've refused.   I should've refused to do the gag on Eraser on the container. You do, as a stunt person,  have the right of refusal -- however if you invoke it you probably get blacklisted and never work again. Having said that, if you get killed in the gag you never work again. I've just always been super super careful in the 15 years I've done stunts that's why I'm still alive." 
 So you must be a hero to so many aspiring stunt men and women out there, but who is your stunt hero? - "My stunt hero was the late great Dar Robinson and of course Yakima Cannutt cannot is the grandfather of all stuntmen that doubled John Wayne. Another great stuntmen is my friend John Hagner. All Heros."
Now, people die doing your job... Have you ever been close to death? - "Yes. Eraser. And a few moments in T2."
In that case how do you get prepared? - "I pray." 
Now I know men do stunt double for women now and again, have you ever been asked? - "Would  have to be the biggest ugliest woman on the planet!" Ha!
There must have been some funny moments along the way... Have you ever laughed when you shouldn't have? - "I laughed during the screening of commando once in front of the producers and I got a very stern look but I still laughed." 
So you act as well as do the stunts... which do you prefer? - "I do everything in the business acting stunts directing second unit, first unit, producing and screen-writing."
Any other memorable onset stories? - "Order a copy of my book. Stand or fall autobiography of a stuntman!!" - Ok... Ok... I will.... 

To read more about Peter Kent and to buy his fabulous book go to: http://www.peterhkent.com/

1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid I always wanted to be a stuntman... Glad I became an animator now....