Gary Kent, the iconic B-movie stunt performer, actor and director who worked with Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Rush and Monte Hellman and served as the inspiration for Brad Pitt’s character in Quentin Tarantino’s Once upon a time in Hollywood, has passed away. He turned 89.
Kent died Thursday night at a nursing home in Austin, his son Chris Kent said The Hollywood Reporter.
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Kent suffered two of his most painful injuries as a stunt performer in Rush movies. He cut his arm on broken glass during a bar fight Hell’s Angels on wheels (1967) and was run over by a motorcycle that went out of control in The Wild Seven (1968), where he shared scenes with Penny Marshall.
His half-century stunt career came to an end on the set of Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) when he fell down a hill and damaged his leg, but continued as a stunt coordinator and did not work until 2019 Sex terrorists on wheels.
The lovable Kent played a gas tank worker (and handled special effects) to launch Bogdanovich’s career Goals (1968) and was a thug (and fired stunts) in Rush’s Psych Out (1968), an assassin in Hell’s Bloody Devils (1970), a motorcyclist in The incredible two-headed transplant (1971) and a rapist in The wild wives of angels (1971).
Tarantino interviewed Kent while he was putting together his script Once upon a time in Hollywood (2019), according to Joe O’Connell, who directed Danger Goda handy documentary about Kent that appeared in 2018.
In the film, Pitt portrayed the charismatic Cliff Booth, a stunt double for Leonardo DiCaprio’s fading actor Rick Dalton, in an Oscar-winning turn.
Gary Warner Kent was born on June 7, 1933 on a farm in Walla Walla, Washington, and grew up about four hours north in Renton, Washington. He attended Renton High School and the University of Washington Huskies, where he studied journalism and was a backup quarterback and pole vaulter.
Kent left college to enter the US Naval Air Force and was posted to Corpus Christi, Texas. There he publicized the famous flight demonstration squadron the Blue Angels and performed on local venues. He then moved to Houston and wrote, directed and acted at the Alley and Playhouse theatres.
Kent came to Los Angeles by bus in 1958 and worked in film production offices while landing parts in films Legion of the Damned (1958), King of the wild stallions (1959), Battle Flame (1959), The thrill killers (1964) – as psychopath – and Ted V. Mikels’ The Black Klansman (1966).
His career began when he persuaded Jack Nicholson to hire him for two Hellman-directed Westerns shot back-to-back in Kanab, Utah in 1966: the Nicholson-written Ride in the whirlwind And Shooting.
He doubled for Nicholson in those films and impressed the actor with his willingness to fall off a horse without using landing pads.
In 1969 films, Kent wielded an axe One million AC-DC (1969) and slammed into his old friend and fellow stunt performer John “Bud” Cardos Satan’s sadists.
While making low-budget movies on the Spahn Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, he met Charles Manson and members of his “family,” which he certainly told Tarantino about.
Behind the camera, Kent served as an assistant director at Al Adamson’s Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971) and was unit production manager at Phantom of paradise (1974), directed by Brian De Palma.
After being sent to Dallas to direct a movie that fell through with financing, he stayed to write and direct the new age drama The Pyramid (1976). The movie is included in the recent book TCM Underground: 50 must-see movies from the world of classic cult and nocturnal cinema.
Kent also wrote and directed Friends of the rainy day (1985), starring another of his great stunt buddies, Chuck Bail – he played the stunt coordinator in Rush’s critically acclaimed The stunt man – and Esai Morales as cancer patients.
Kent continued acting in independent films well into his 80s. On a poster for Danger Godhe’s wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Stuntmen don’t fear death, they defy it!”
his memoirs, Shadows & Light: Traveling with Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywoodappeared in 2009.
Kent was married four times. Survivors include his children, Chris, Greg, Colleen, Andrew, Alex, and Michael, and his grandchildren, Ethan, Nicolette, Timothy, and Hannah.
In a 2018 interview with The Austin ChronicleKent said he was lucky to have worked in the “golden age of stuntmen.”
“CGI really changed things,” he said. “I just made a movie while working as a stunt coordinator, and they didn’t have the money to hire stuntmen. They had some fights in the script, so I asked the actors if any of them had done stunts before. They all raised their hands, but none of them had ever really done stunts. Maybe they threw a glass of water or something, but a stunt is rolling cars or high falls. It is challenging. Nowadays every actor thinks he’s a stuntman.”
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