Peter Kent is quite simply a legend… he was the T-800 in the first two Terminator movies and T2:3D (The Ride) he did scenes that were deemed too dangerous for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was Arnold’s stunt double on 14 Schwarzenegger movies spanning over 13 years. Total Recall, Twins, Predator, Commando… he did them all.
After a chat with Peter we headed straight into a bunch of questions and we had them answered immediately!
What was your very first stunt job and what got you interested in the industry?
I’ve always been interested in the theater and film ever since I was a little kid watching my black-and-white TV with my mom and dad. I distinctly remember the film “The Blob” scaring the shit out of me! I did theater in school and then regional theater just before I left for Los Angeles in 1983, so I was pretty much set up and ready for it, I just didn’t have any connections when I got to LA and didn’t know anyone there. My first time in Terminator was going backwards through the Tech Noir nightclub window and it was pretty scary because I had no real idea what I was doing. I was just bluffing it. The stunt coordinator Frank Orsatti found me out that night and helped me out to make sure I didn’t get killed. I’m grateful to him and Bobby Yerkes (famous circus trainer) who took me under their wings and helped give me the career that I’ve had. Especially Bob, who went out of his way to train a lot of young stunt guys at his ranch in the San Fernando Valley. My good stunt-buddy Max Daniels can attest to that one as well. Bob was a very generous guy and trained all the actors there for the old series “Circus of the Stars” where actors would perform like circus folk.
We briefly spoke to the Extras Casting Coordinator of The Terminator (Greg Robbins) about you being hired for The Terminator (1984) how did you meet Greg and how did you secure your role as the T-800?
When I was living in the YMCA Los Angeles (when I first got there) I used to call all the casting agencies every morning with a pocketful of change from a payphone. The people at the casting agency told me that there was a job available for a stand-in and I went over to the Terminator office. James Cameron took one look at me and basically hired me on the spot. He then asked if I had any stunt experience and I thought if I don’t say yes to this I may not get the stand in job; so I just agreed and basically winged it. Not the recommended method for entering the business for sure. That would never work on anyone ever again. Pure luck. Greg Robbins and I are still very good friends. We have written, directed and co-produced several films together and are also in the process of a new project, as well as some other things we can’t let out of the bag just yet.
Were you hired before the delay due to Arnold being contracted into the Conan sequel; If so did you use the wait for preparation for the role. How did you use the time?
I had never met Arnold and I didn’t even realize he was being cast in the role, until I met James Cameron at the ABC TV center in Hollywood that fateful day. I had no idea what I was working on before that so I had no way to prepare for the role. Really I just went out on the first day of shooting and walked up on the set and there I was- my first film! Although I had worked as an extra on a few other pictures like “Kentucky Fried Movie”. I was pretty young and impressionable.
For those fans that couldn’t tell the difference between you and The Austrian Oak- can you tell them all the scenes you appeared/performed in for The Terminator (1984) and for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)?
Wow that’s a tough one. On Terminator I did a lot of the driving stuff in the underground parking lot and the chase footage, I did the shotgun hit to the nightclub (Tech Noir) window, I did a bunch of the running for him, I did the truck hit at the motel, a bunch of the motorcycle driving. But thankfully not the stuff where they were throwing pipe bombs at him in Santa Monica tunnel because Gene Hartline did that shot and he crashed the bike and broke his foot. As I was a newbie it might have been much worse for me. They literally blew him off the bike.
On Terminator 2 there were so many gags that I did, it’s hard to remember them all. Just about every action sequence you see, I am in. Truck transfer, motorcycle chase, the bike jump, (which put me in the Hollywood Stuntman’s Hall of Fame) all the fight sequences in the steel-mill, all of it really! It was a very intense and exhausting six-month shoot, I remember that part. Some days it was just hard to drag my ass back to the set after the beatings. At one point we had 3 units going and they were scattered all over the LA area and I was driving in my car, in various stages of Terminator make-up to one and then the other to get the shots we needed. A few motorists got quite a shock when my black Porsche came screaming past with a Terminator at the wheel!
Most of the people involved in the movie did not anticipate that the movie would become a cult classic. How does it feel to be involved with something that has integrated itself into our every day culture and is also one of the most financially strong franchises in Hollywood today?
It’s funny that you say that because actually Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn and I, were playing cards one night on the set in the Department of Water and Power building in LA and we were talking about the movie and we realized that we were part of something that was actually pretty big. We didn’t realize how big that point. But that became very clear when Terminator hit the theaters and then the T2 script came out! Yeah it’s pretty nice to look back as kind of a legacy of the work that I’ve done. I am very grateful for that day when James said “you’re hired!” and when Frank Orsatti didn’t kick me off his set for lying about my abilities!
Obviously in the scenes where you stood in for Mr Schwarzenegger you wear the same wardrobe. Arnold stated that one of his costumes (in a Terminator video interview) was his personal clothing he threw on from the boot of his car… Did you have to swap clothes on set or were there duplicates?
I’ve never heard that interview and I find it hard to believe that he threw on clothes from the trunk of his car because we had wardrobe all the time. I think Arnold was just playing with whoever interviewed him. He’s the ultimate prankster. I remember him in Chicago one time trying on a suit jacket and as the salesmen were all jockeying for his attention he winked at me and then flexed his lats and said, “Take this off me, its stuck.” They pulled and pulled but he’d wedged himself into it, pretending to be angry and frustrated. They were all jumping and yanking when he just relaxed and they all fell to the floor in a heap. He said, “That jacket is shit!” and left. We were roaring as we went through the Watertower mall. And yes- there were always multiple costumes, we had about 4 or 5 sets of everything. I ended up with a couple of the outfits; the leather jacket and the other jacket myself. I gave them to charity to auction off.
What was your work-out routine for the Terminator (1984) and did you train with Arnold on all the movies you have worked on with him,- did he start bringing his personal gym to the set of his movies even back then or is that something which materialized later in his career?
I know we started working out just before I left for Los Angeles- I was 27 at the time. So I didn’t actually start training with Arnold until about halfway through Terminator. But I learned a whole lot from him as I was doing it and then afterwards when I went back to work with him again on “Commando” I realized that I really needed to beef it up, so I started training with him every day, as I did with him every day for 15 years. I know one thing for sure, very few people can say that! Of course having said that now, people expect me to look like a pro bodybuilder. I can assure you I don’t any longer!! Not with twin four-year-old boys I don’t get much time in the gym but that’s gonna change! And it wasn’t until about 1987 when he started bringing a full semi trailer full of gear on the road with him. I remember going out with his driver to pick up the container in Chicago one day when we got there for “Red Heat”. We were in a semi cab and we passed a Cadillac and looked over to see this girl bobbing up and down in the Caddy drivers lap. We had a pretty good laugh at that. Arnold’s driver said, “Gee Chicago looks like a friendly town!”
Jim Cameron is renowned for his temper on the set of his movies did you ever feel his wrath or were you on your best behavior?
It’s funny I never saw any of that on Terminator. He really didn’t develop his temper and tyrannical reputation until afterwards, I guess on the Abyss. I did see it in Terminator 2 though. He would get mad at you if you fell asleep on the set or if you were reading a newspaper. I remember him coming up to me and tearing a newspaper out of my hands. I just casually picked up the remaining chunks of it and kept reading which really pissed him off! We also almost got to fisticuffs on True Lies because he was yelling at me about acting like a child and hanging out with Arnold, smoking cigars and joking around in his trailer. So I asked Jim why HE was ranting like a spoiled child in front of his crew. He raised his hand and got on his tiptoes and looked at me. I said, “you get to throw one and I get one, OK?” He blinked at me for a couple seconds, but he knew who would win that contest, so he just walked away telling me that my dive from the exploding tanker into the harbor; “Had better be a 10!”. I think that was the first time anybody ever really stood up to him. The crew was sitting there, very shocked, watching the whole thing but secretly cheering.
So you weren’t in T3… did you ever get a call or were you simply not orange enough to fit the color tones of that movie and what was your overall opinion on the 3rd Terminator movie?
I didn’t do Terminator 3 because I had quit doing stunts by that point. I got pretty severely injured on the film “Eraser”. Broke my top three ribs, scapula, collarbone, smashed my ankle really good meeting a 3 ton overseas container in mid-air. It was that point I just decided I had been in this for 15 years and it was enough. It was god’s tap on the shoulder telling me it was time to go back to acting or something less life threatening. Like a lot of the fans I’m not a big fan of Terminator 3. Sorry Kristanna! She’s a good friend of mine but I don’t think she’s ever heard me say that before. Her performance was great, I just didn’t like the script that much, or the storyline, or the way it was shot.
I was the first guy EVER in the business to wear facial prosthetics as a stunt double. The dreaded mask. Glued onto my face for 12 + hours a day. Still makes me shiver when I think about it. After a while I just tried to fall asleep while they put it on. However it did get me a lot of over-time pay because of the hours I worked and the time it took to put it on. That was the only bonus. I remember when Jeff Dawn brought up the idea of doing it and James Cameron agreed to the test and I spent six hours in make-up,- praying the entire time that he was going to hate it. We were shooting at Todd and Janelle’s house and Jim asked me to drive by on the motorcycle and look over at him as he stood at the front door. I did that, parked the bike and got off and he said “it’s awesome we’re going with it!” and I was like…aww fuck! In the scene where I got tossed through the plate glass window in the shopping mall, there were hundreds of Japanese tourists watching from the balcony above. When I finished and the shot was wrapped- they kept screaming “Arnold, Arnold” at me as I was the only Arnoldy looking thing on set at that moment. I looked up at them and reached into the appliance and started tearing the mouth and face muzzle off. It was latex and very stretchy and looked just like skin. A bunch of them started screaming, like it was something out of a horror film. I got a pretty good chuckle out of that. Scarred for life!
Were Jeff Dawn and Stan Winston responsible for the applying the prosthetics?
Just Jeff Dawn, who was a master make up artist. Love you Jeff! Even though he put me through hell, gluing that shit on my face for six months! And every show afterwards, “Last Action Hero”, “Eraser”, “Jingle all the Way”.
Did you ever think you would lose your life whilst working on a Terminator movie and What was the worst injury you sustained in a Terminator movie and due to what scene?
Yeah, when we did the truck transfer where Terminator crawls out of the little pickup truck onto the hood of the big rig… the run across the back bed of the pickup. It was all free-handed at 60 miles an hour, no safety line on or anything, so if I fell I would’ve been smeared. I remember looking up at the stars saying to my mother “I love you mom” and wondering over the last time I was ever going to look up at that sky or see her. Having said that- you can imagine I was somewhat relieved to get the first take and get the sequence in the can after 5 takes! I also smashed my nose on the side of the truck when we did the flip over onto its side. Busted and bloody.
What is the worst injury you have had in your entire career as a stuntman?
When I got hit by the 3 1/2 ton overseas shipping container in the film “Eraser”. We were supposed to fall with it with a wire on our back and be snatched off after the last 20 feet, but the box cables didn’t cut free. One of the cutters failed to fire and left one cable uncut and it spun around by that single cable like a huge baseball bat and smashed into me. Next thing I knew I was heading for the warehouse wall 100 feet away. My wire got snagged into the box cables and kept repeatedly hitting me and winding my cable into it. one-two-three! Nothing you could do about it. I just got beat, though I did manage to spin myself on the wire axis to keep going into it on the same, broken side. I knew I’d broken some stuff but didn’t want to smash both sides of my rib cage and shoulders so each time I hit, I spun myself back into the box on the same, right side. It was all I could do. It happened so fast and yet in slow motion- if that makes sense. It was when I came out of the hospital after that I realized that I was done. 15 years is long enough.
Without a doubt you are the best Terminator stunt double we have seen especially due to the fact T2 broke ground that the other Terminator movies didn’t. What is the level of accomplishment you feel for being crazy enough to give fans spectacular scenes that will live on forever (well at least until the apocalypse hits)?
Well first off thanks for the compliment! And the longest running; as I did 13 of Arnold’s films with him. I’m very proud of my work. It was very exhausting and very strenuous and very much a test of your your will to carry on in T2. I actually remember one of James Cameron’s kinder moments, when he found me asleep in a chair on the steel mill set and he told me to “go to the hotel and go to sleep and get some rest”, cause he had never beaten on a stuntman like he’d beaten on me. Later on, in his series “Dark Angel” he wrote a character for me in the pilot named “Peter” and when he first came onset he put an arm around me and hailed the crew saying, “This guy right here is one of the bravest and craziest guys you’ll ever meet!!” Most agree with the crazy part anyway. It was a nice moment. My motorcycle work and the bike jump put me in the Hollywood Stuntman’s Hall of Fame and is rated by CNN as one of the top 10 stunts of all time. That’s something that no one can ever take away from you. My truck transfer is the most dangerous stunt James Cameron is ever shot – I have the footage and Voice over on my website – and overall I’m just really proud of that film and that it has stood the test of time. It’s kind of my legacy, to look back on that movie and say, “I did that, I survived that, I helped create that.” It’ll be something for my little four-year-old boys to look at, long after I’m gone and say “that’s my daddy!” I hope they’re proud of it like I am.
TheTerminatorFans.com believe Terminator 5 should be a continuation of the world set up in the first 2 movies but dark in tone like the first movie (a return to the roots) what would you like T5 to be like?
I agree with you, I’d like to see it go back to the way the first two Terminators were.
By returning to the roots we want to see original key players return in the 5th movie including you. Would you be up for returning as Arnold’s Stuntman in Terminator 5 and what would you like to bring to the table; what crazy risks would you be willing to take in order to outdo those excellent stunts in the first two Terminator movies?
You know that’s a question I’ve asked myself. I would love to work with Arnold again I just don’t know if if I could physically take those kinds of beatings anymore. I’m only 10 years younger than Arnold!! I still wake up in the morning and find myself hurting from all the shit I’ve done previously, so I don’t know if I could do it anymore. I have to wait till the call came down. But I am still crazy that’s for sure!! Arnold call me! Let’s figure it out!
There were rumors that originally Terminator 3 would have been helmed by James Cameron in 1996… did you ever hear any rumors or get any phone calls regarding the project?
I heard rumors regarding that but I never got a phone call about it and in fact I was out of the business by then. Out of it in the stunt sense anyway. I still work as actor, producer, screenwriter, second unit director, show creator and stunt coordinator and I also teach stunts in my Peter Kent’s School of Hard Knocks in Vancouver Canada.
Tell me more about the container gag that you and Lane Leavitt worked on together?
That was a gag I described to you previously, it was in Eraser where I got hit with the container. It certainly wasn’t Lane’s fault, it was actually the fault of the special-effects guys who rigged it poorly. I asked them as they were doing if it was wired in series or parallel (electrical lesson here) and they told be to bugger off as they were busy. I knew something was going to go wrong. I could sense it. Myself and the double for James Caan and the double for Vanessa Williams all felt that something was going to go sideways with that gag. We all had a really uneasy gut feelings before we went to camera on that but you can’t call a gag off based on a bad gut feeling and risk a hundred thousand dollar shot, sooooo you end up risking your life instead! The doctor told me after that crash that it was lucky I was still alive. I believe her. I am very lucky as I have also been DOA from a car accident when I was 19 so I’ve pushed the limits of what my guardian angels are prepared to take!
In scenes from The Terminator Arnold had to wear acid on his clothing to simulate smoking from scenes after catching fire in the escape from Tech Noir… did you have to wear this acid for your scenes and did it irritate you as much as it did Arnold?
It’s actually called A/B smoke and it is pretty nasty stuff but it wasn’t really acid. Arnold’s just being a crybaby! Actors! Pfffft! Lol.
Who are the main people you have stayed in contact with from the Terminator series? Did you make any life-long friends along the way?
I’m in contact with almost everybody; the hairdresser Peter Tothpal, Jeff Dawn, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Robert Patrick, Kristanna Loken ( I do a lot of Terminator conventions with the actors all over the world) and a lot of the crew still are all good friends as well. Risking your life with people and spending six months with them tends to make you bond. We were part of something epic there and though it was 20 plus years ago, the fans still remember us and appreciate the hard work we put in to give them a memorable film and we, in turn, appreciate them!
Thanks for the interview Peter!
So there you have it the last movie Peter Kent performed as Arnold’s Stuntman was Jingle all the Way but he is interested in returning once again as the T-800 and will be hitting the gym to become the original stunt machine. If Megan Ellison or her brother David have any sense they’ll be giving Peter a phone call very soon! Peter Kent is not just a stuntman but also an actor and more so we hope he is involved as either stuntman/stunt role or an acting role in the movie. Bring back Peter Kent!
Check out the links below for more Peter Kent information: