THE REAL TERMINATOR
Story by Contos
Photos courtesy of Peter Kent
The Real Terminator
Mild Mannered Stuntman Peter Kent
The Jump That Defied Gravity!
Peter Harris Kent may very well have been born to be a stuntman even if he didn’t always look the part. He Grew up along the often treacherous Seymour River in North Vancouver, Canada. Peter often kept his mother’s heart racing as he was shooting the rapids, climbing the highest trees and jumping from the branches to the ground. One of his more infamous childhood stunts was riding his bicycle across planks 12 feet atop the family laurel hedge. He started riding motorcycles at the age of 16 when he purchased a Yamaha 250. He later graduated to a Honda 750. Blood and stitches were a regular accessory to his attire. As he grew older and bolder; the stunts evolved into a series of horrific car crashes in the early 1980’s. One of the crashes in particular nearly cost Peter his life and left him with an altered facial structure that was said to resemble actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now he looked the part.
1983 found Peter living in Los Angeles at the notorious YMCA off Sunset Strip where he was struggling while pursuing an acting career. The casting call that changed his life forever was for a stand-in on Terminator (1984) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Director James Cameron took one look at Peter and took him under his wing as Arnold’s Stunt double! The only problem was that Peter wasn’t a professional stunt man; although at the time he didn’t have the heart to tell that to James Cameron when he asked Peter if he was a stunt man. Stunt coordinators Frank Orsatti and Bob Yerkes quickly recognized Peter’s inexperience. They managed to not only keep him alive through filming but helped him launch into one of the most celebrated stunt careers Hollywood has ever known. Peter’s association with Arnold Schwarzenegger spanned 14 films over 13 years, as a stunt double, friend, workout partner, ski buddy, confidant, chef and dialogue coach to the star.
Of all the films i.e. Terminator; Twins, Commando, Predator, Total Recall…, it is his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) that interests us at CrossroadsMotorcycleCrew.com the most. In particular the money shot for our readers was when Peter, as the T-800 Terminator complete with special effects Arnold mask glued to his face, jumps from a divider wall into the Los Angeles River aqueduct system on a Harley-Davidson Fatboy. The number one question asked after seeing the film was, “Is that motorcycle jump real or special effects and the answer is… yes!
Peter recalled, with Crossroads, reading the script to T2 and asking Director James Cameron what kind of motorcycle he was thinking about using for the stunts. Among other questions he asked, “…What are we using for this, like a 350 or 500 Hondas or whatever?” James responded totally straight faced in a matter of fact tone, “No a Harley.” Peter started laughing and waited for James to break a smile or laugh but he never did. The chase scene was no problem but as he thought about the motorcycle jump part of the script, Peter’s mind raced as he tried to figure out how he would stay alive and upright on two legs with a straight spine and in one piece. While Peter quickly contemplated his predicament, James already had it worked out in his mind and with his effects guys how it would work, more or less, in theory anyway.
PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! Physics mandate that a bike that large and heavy being jumped from that height would disintegrate as would the rider’s spine. Two large 200 foot cranes 600 feet apart with a one-inch cable rigging to the bike would merely ease the landing. Make no mistake about it; Peter was riding a 1992 Fatboy off the end of a modified divider wall at 35 miles per hour, 85 feet through the air and down onto the dry bed of Los Angeles River. When he landed, he came down fast and he landed hard, extremely hard. The cable rigging took off just enough pressure and force from the landing as to insure the bike and rider stayed intact and alive. Peter performed this jump not one time but seven times, through seven takes. In post-production the cable was removed from the scene through a process known as rotoscoping.
When you study the scene frame for frame you can see the compression of the stock suspension as well as the compression of the front tire against the cement river bed and you can see Peter’s reaction to it. This was not a soft acted landing. You know that the back pain he feels today had a lot to do with this particular stunt!
On one take, Peter recalled with us, the back brake assembly was broken completely off upon landing. He was riding 35 M.P.H. straight at camera and straight at Jim who happened to be on camera looking down lens with no idea of dimension or just how close he was getting and couldn’t stop. Peter had the full Arnold mask on and was trying to stay in character and keep the poker face when at the last second he had to break character and yell, “Get the f@%K out of the way!!!” They missed by only about two-inches. Peter then hit the front brake, the front wheel washed and the bike went down.
There were a total of 5 identically stock 1992 Harley-Davidson Fatboys with stock suspension systems used in the filming of this stunt chase scene. The carbs were jetted and the valves grinded larger with heavier valve springs but that was about the only modifications just to get a little extra oomph. Peter had to get out of the way quick in the scene where Peter rides around the truck because the driver of the truck couldn’t see the bike. If Peter didn’t pull around the truck fast enough, he would have been crushed between the rig and the wall. The five Harley Fatboys were beat up pretty good but they all survived. Peter ended up with one of them as his own personal ride replacing the Kawasaki Ninja 900 that he was riding up to the time of the filming of T2.
The scene from T2 where he runs across the moving pick-up truck and jumped onto the hood of the moving big-rig with no safety rigging was Peter’s most exciting moment as a stuntman. James Cameron years later exclaimed, “I would never have done that gag (stunt) like I did it back then, it was far too dangerous!” Peter recalled, I literally thought I could die that night.” Another memorable moment was dropping 20 stories straight down from the Long Beach Hilton Hotel in The Last Action Hero. “That’s got a pretty high pucker factor, I can tell you that!” Peter exclaims. A rigging accident during the filming of Eraser (1996), that once again had the grim reaper calling, brought Peter’s stunt career to an end. In his own words, “When you get hit with three tons of overseas shipping container; one-hundred feet in the air; it’s pretty hard on the shoulders!”
In 2009, Peter Harris Kent was voted into the Stuntmen Hall of Fame. He was one of the longest working stunt doubles. Today he is still very involved in the industry and works as a second unit director and stunt coordinator.
Peter is currently working on a docudrama called, When Heaven and Hell Collide based on Jim Peters and his efforts with wounded war veterans returning from battle, their struggle with recovery and reintegrating back into society. He’s also working on producing a TV series based on his stunt school called, Peter Kent’s School Of Hard Knocks located in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
It is also our proud pleasure to announce that Peter is also now one of the newest members of the Crossroads Crew! Peter will also contribute stories to CrossroadsMotorcyceCrew.com in the future as they come to him in his travels and from his neck of the woods.
Stay tuned! More to come!
Peter on his 1992 Harley-Davidson Fatboy.
T-800 making the getaway!
Peter's favorite moment as a stuntman.
From Peter's old series Stuntdawgs. An unsuccessful try at recreating the T2 bike jump. Ouch
High fall in Last Action Hero
The inscription says:
Peter - you're a great stuntman -
Arnold is a lucky man to have someone
so talented doubling him -
2nd unit director
Last Action Hero
This is a scene from Eraser where Peter had to run, jump and grab this one handed as Arnolds character had just been shot in the shoulder by Jimmy Caan. It was a bitch, especially with the devils own fart going on behind him. This is also the container, 3 tons of it, that later hit him 100 feet in the air after the special effects guys royally screwed up, and busted Peter up pretty nicely.
Want to know more about Peter Kent and The School of Hard Knocks? Check out the links below: