Born in Vancouver, BC, Peter Kent has worked as a Shakespearean actor, a Hollywood stuntman, and now a faith-based producer/director. He worked as Arnold Shchwarzenegger’s stunt double in fourteen action films and was inducted into Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame.
How did you get your start as a film actor?
I remember watching tv as a small kid, three or four, and thinking, “I want to do that.” It was an old black and white Electrohome television and at first I thought that the actors were really inside it.
Then I started out acting in school plays in my early teens and moved on to regional theater in Vancouver, BC and the area, honing my skills.
I then fell in with the Shakespeare crowd and did Hamlet, which I really loved. I had kind of an obsession with the bard for a long time and still love it. I also played Marc Anthony and Henry 5 in “Shakespeare on the Lawn” in Orange County while I was working with Arnold. That was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done as an actor. Arnold called me his Shakespearian stuntman, both as a jest and with some small measure of pride, I think.
After bumming around in the audio industry for about ten years off and on, in 1984 I decided to go to Los Angeles, selling everything I owned at the time for about $1,800 and living in the YMCA on Sunset Strip – a very crazy circus-like experience. Then I got a phone call at the desk from one of the casting agents that I had reached out to from the Y’s pay phone and…
How did you meet James Cameron?
The casting agent said to me that they were casting this little film, Terminator, with James Cameron. So I went to the interview and James took a look at me and hired me on the spot for $20 a day – flat! It’s called paying your dues, I guess. It was very surreal for a kid from Vancouver. Diving Guidance.
What was it like being a stunt double for Arnold Shchwarzenegger?
I doubled him in fourteen films and after Terminator, I thought it would be the last time. But he kept calling me back and it just kept on rolling – Commando, Red Heat, Raw Deal, Running Man, Predator, etc. etc. Some very tough physical days for sure. If you’ve watched Terminator 2, Predator, or Eraser, then you’ve probably seen me come pretty close to death in a few moments. I was struck by a three ton overseas shipping container, one hundred feet in the air on Eraser and nearly broke my back. Broke just about everything else, BUT that. The doctor said I should have been dead. Then she said there were some cancer patients in the hospital that wanted to meet me and I went and spent time with them, realizing that I had just nearly missed death, but not so for these poor folks. It was then, after fifteen years, that I just said, “I can’t do this anymore.” Fifteen years is a looooong time to be taking physical abuse on a grand scale, almost daily. I returned to Vancouver to work as an actor. The film climate here was booming then and I went on to do about sixty tv and film roles over the last fourteen years here.
What was the best acting advice you learned while working in Hollywood?
Don’t believe your own press. And watch yourself. Someone always wants something from you there it seems. I know that sounds negative, but for every talent there, there are a dozen people who feed off that in whatever way they can. Like anything, it attracts the good and the bad, the light and the dark.
But the best advice anyone gave me was my mother who suggested that I treat Arnold like anyone else and not put him on a pedestal. I think that’s why we got along so well for so long, because I was never a “yes man” to him. In fact, I always told him when I thought his acting was bad and suggested, in German, other alternative approaches.
Learning German helped a lot. I am self taught. Arnold was quite amazed when I started speaking with him in German, and he couldn’t figure out how I learned it so well. He would say I must have been German in a past life.
What led to your involvement in faith-based films?
Reconnecting with Greg Robbins about eight years ago on C Me Dance was great. Greg and I are old friends from Terminator and kindred spirits in filmmaking. When I saw what he was doing, after having been involved myself in so many action films where the body count is just ludicrous, I felt there were better stories to tell, ones that had a real message and had a heart and soul. There is too much violence in the world these days without propagating more. The endless graphic depiction of it in films and games just hardens the soul and desensitizes us to base animal level. Children are beginning to reflect that in their behaviors – bullying, school, shootings, etc. I don’t want my little boys to have to face that or to be involved in it.
What faith-based films have you been involved in?
Greg and I did C Me Dance, then co-wrote, co-produced, and 2nd unit directed on Superheroes Don’t Need Capes. And we just finished Through a Mother’s Eyes where I play Doctor Chris Cameron, which was a huge treat for me and an honor to try, as an actor to bring truth and justice to the memory of Debbie Miller’s lost son. It was interesting – and difficult – having her on set, reliving it all through the scenes, but at one point she came to me and said, “I’ve vilified this doctor for all these years because of what he told me, that my baby was stillborn. You, and the way you are playing this character, have shed light onto his soul, and for the first time I see that he was probably hurting deeply as I was with this whole ordeal.” For an actor, it doesn’t get any better, and as a human being, to be able to lift someone’s eyes and change their outlook, even after so long, is a real gift.
I am also in the process of producing a Christmas family film that I wrote. It’s a very Hallmark-type of story about a young girl in a tragic car accident who has to learn to walk, love, and find family again. I’d love to find a Christian distributor for it as it has a huge heart and family appeal. I am looking, always looking.
Of the many films you’ve been a part of, which are you most proud?
Of the past films, I’d have to say that Terminator 2 and Last Action Hero are the ones that placed me in the most peril personally and demanded so much strength, both physical and mental, to meet the tasks that the directors asked of me on a daily basis. My bike jump – bike sequence and truck chase sequence in Terminator 2 put me in the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame. That also lent itself to me writing, producing, hosting, and directing my own series for Discovery Channel called Stuntdawgs, which wouldn’t have happened without the media I gathered as Arnold’s double in his films. So I am grateful for all of it. It is a legacy I can show my twin three-year-old boys and be proud of. Terminator 2 still has an enormous following as I see at the many sci-fi conventions that I do around the world. Young and old fans are always coming up to me for autographed photos on Terminator 2 posters and on shots of my bike jump and truck transfer scene. I am glad they still think it’s cool. I am also proud that I have been so fortunate to work with some of the greatest directors and filmmakers in modern history and learn from them. I was never one for sitting in my dressing room. I watched everything as it went down, mostly for self preservation in stunts but also as an aspiring filmmaker and writer. I wanted to gather what I could from these legendary folks and make use of it myself.
It is an opportunity of a lifetime and not to be missed, and as I wear so many hats – actor, stuntman, director, writer, producer – I felt that if I wanted an longevity in the industry, I had to learn as much as I could about every aspect of it. It has served me well.
What are your film goals for the future?
I’m always trying to get something made. Many reality series concepts, some stunt related, medical and fringe, as well as several epic dramatic series packages I’ve created and am actively pitching. One of them, a wonderful family outdoors wildlife veterinarian series that has a very wholesome and broad appeal. I am working towards doing my own Christmas film and also working with Greg Robbins on getting funding and production for other projects – a film and a couple of series concepts that are faith-based and have a good solid, healthy storyline that is acceptable to all ages and isn’t something that you have to be afraid to leave your kids in the room to watch. We are trying to get production on a series called Heaven Help Us, which I think would be a terrific comedy series and something for the whole family. We are always trying to put out the “word”!
Just finding ways to create a good story. I am a storyteller for better or worse.