Peter Kent first got his passion for acting from high school drama class as a teenager in Nanaimo. He continued to refine his talent and go on to perform in many theatre productions in BC. However, he found the most success after the young aspiring actor pointed his car south and headed for Hollywood.
His bold decision to move to L.A. meant many hardships at first, such as living in the YMCA while he searched for his big break. That big break started when Kent was sent to see Jim Cameron who was searching for someone to stand in on set lighting for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first day on set, Kent was hired by Jim Cameron as Arnold’s stand-in for $40 a day, and some of those days meant spending 24 hours on set.
It was early in his new job when Cameron would ask Kent if he did stunts and worried his answer might affect his employment, Kent replied, “Well, yeah.” Kent was so green to the business at the time, he didn’t really understand what being a stuntman entailed, so he hoped he wouldn’t be called on it later.
His second night on set, Cameron handed Kent a shotgun and said, “Get in the car.” A few minutes later he found himself firing a shotgun out a car window as the Terminator was stalking Sarah and Kyle in a stolen police car. “You just can’t do that stuff in real life, it was a lot of fun”, said Kent.
It wasn’t until he was asked to fall backwards through a plate glass window when the stunt coordinator realized Kent was bluffing. “It was the blank look on my face that gave me away when he asked me if I wanted a ramp”, Kent said.
Kent would continue to work closely with Schwarzenegger on 14 films over 15 years. They had some great times goofing around and that often meant cleaning out the joke shops. One prank led to Arnold’s cigar exploding while he was on camera. It was really a lot of fun despite the danger of some of the stunts. Kent said he could have been killed a few times during some of the stunts.
“If you push the envelope, the envelope pushes back.”
Today, most films include CGI graphics and green screens, but back in the beginning, all the stunts were filmed in real locations. Today safety standards are a lot stricter and equipment is a lot better, making stunt jobs a lot safer now than they once were.
Peter Kent would return to BC and he continues to be one of the busiest actor/writer/producer/directors in the business. He currently also runs Peter Kent’s School of Hard Knocks and to date has trained over 500 new stunt men and women.
In 2006, Kent would create, write, produce, direct, and host the TV show Stuntdawgs which would eventually lead to him winning a Gemini Award for Excellence in Television. In 2009 Kent was inducted into the Hollywood Stuntmen Hall of Fame by John Hagner. He was greatly honored to have his name next to some of the greatest stuntmen in the business such as; Yakima Canutt, Cliff Lyons, Dave Sharpe, Ronnie Rondell, Lee Diebold, Danny Sands, Hubi Kerns, and Henry Kingi Jr.
Kent continues to give back to his local community and returns to his roots hosting many different children’s workshops on stunts or green screen to teach some of the lessons he’s learned in the business over his career.
“If you’ve got that experience, you should pass it along.”
Currently Peter Kent is preparing to move from Squamish, where he sits on city council, to Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. Along with arranging the move of his stunt school, he’s also starting work on producing one of the first of seven screenplays he’s written. His movie called, Christmas Girl, hopes to begin shooting on the Island later this year and will star Wynona Judd. Kent has picked a few locations for shooting the movie, one being the new studio located in nearby Parkville, BC, and an old hospital.
BAHM asked Kent what advice he’d give to a young actor or model wanting to get into the business.
“First of all, learn your chops. Get your education, modeling classes, acting classes, etc. and learn to refine your craft. Then learn the business side. Learn what agents do, learn how to do your own taxes and what you can and can’t write off. Learn what funding is out there and available to you. Spread yourself out there and network. Get on social media, but don’t get caught up in that trap either. Have good pictures and a good website. Bottom line is to learn it all.”
According to Kent, one of the biggest challenges when starting out is the decision to join the union or to not join the union.
“If you’re in the union you can’t work on non-union projects which may limit the amount of work you’ll get. On the other hand, the union work pays more than the non-union work. Also get a good agent, but in a lot of instances, your agent will want you to be in the union. I know successful people on both sides, but ultimately you’ll have to make the choice.”
By Brent Matsalla