Stunt double

Former Nanaimo resident Peter Kent shares his career highlights as a stuntman for Arnold Schwarzenegger

Peter Kent left Vancouver Island for Hollywood in 1984

Peter Kent left Vancouver Island for Hollywood in 1984

If you see Peter Kent walking the streets of Nanaimo, you’ll probably say, “that guy looks a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

You’d be right – it was Kent’s resemblance to the action movie star that kick started his career as a stuntman in Hollywood.

Kent returns to Nanaimo Aug. 18 with an appearance at the Vancouver Island Exhibition to discuss his career as a stuntman in Hollywood, as well as his current work teaching a new generation of stuntmen and women.

“There’s a lot of young people interested in the industry who have questions,” Kent said. “It’s a good industry to be involved in.”

Kent lived in Nanaimo throughout his teen years and remembers going to dances at Beban Park and attending Nanaimo District Secondary School. He was also involved in a series of car accidents, which contributed to his resemblance to Schwarzenegger.

Kent worked at A&B Sound in Victoria in 1984 when he decided to pack up and move to Los Angeles. He had some acting experience, performing at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre.

“I just thought I’m going to go to Los Angeles – I’ve got nothing else to do,” Kent said.

For about six months he lived at the YMCA, attending a few auditions and meeting with casting agents, one of whom passed his photo on to director James Cameron, who happened to be working on a little project called Terminator. Kent met the director, who offered him the stand-in role for Schwarzenegger and asked if he did stunts.

“I thought maybe I wouldn’t have the other role if I didn’t say yes,” Kent said.

He made $20 a day on the set, but got on-the-job training from some of the best stuntmen in the business.

After shooting wrapped, Schwarzenegger contacted Kent for his next movie, which offered Kent the chance to work with and learn from more professional stuntmen.

“[Schwarzenegger] tracked me down and called me up for Commando,” Kent said. “That took me to the next level.”

In all, Kent worked on 13 films with Schwarzenegger, including the Terminator movies, Total Recall, True Lies, Last Action Hero and more.

He no longer does stunts, but he directs, writes, produces and hosts a training school for stunt men and women in Vancouver called School of Hard Knocks.

He also created and hosted Stuntdawgs, a television series about what happens behind the scenes creating stunts.

His main message to newcomers is safety first – get out of the trailer and watch the setup of the rigging to ensure it’s secure.

Kent said he was fortunate to have a star like Schwarzenegger in his corner, whom he could call for backup when Kent felt pressure to hurry setup and safety checks from directors and producers.

Stuntmen always have the option to decline a stunt, but whoever does is unlikely to get work in the industry again, he said.

“You can’t call an event on a gut feeling,” Kent said.

Although he said he had a bad feeling prior to a stunt going terribly wrong on the set of Eraser – a shipping container failed to fall as planned, swung around and slammed into Kent, breaking bones and putting him in the hospital for a week.

“I was almost killed by a three-ton shipping container,” he said.

One of his favourite stunts was an 18-storey drop, including about 15 storeys of freefall before landing calmly on his feet.

“That’s called a de-celerated drop,” Kent said.

He doesn’t feel the same type of fear or adrenaline as when he first started, but he knows how it feels for  newcomers and he teaches them to channel that properly.

Walking into a stunt, Kent was always aware of the potential danger.

“The air smelled a little cleaner and the stars a little brighter,” he said.

Kent will be at the commercial expo stage in Cliff McNabb Arena from 1-4 p.m.

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