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Gary Kent, Actor and Inspiration for Brad Pitt’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Character, Dead at 89

The late actor's work included everything from B-movies and television to directing and stunt-coordination

Photo of Gary Kent, B-movie stuntman and actor. Taken by Joe O’Connell Joe O’Connell/WikimediaJoe O'Connell/Wikimedia

Actor, filmmaker and stunt performer Gary Kent died Thursday at the age of 89. The Austin Chronicle was first to report the news.

Much of Kent's work was done behind the camera — he directed a few cult classics such as 1976's The Pyramid and coordinated the stunt work for countless films, including the 2002 Bruce Campbell flick Bubba Ho-Tep. Despite the fact that he worked behind the scenes on so many projects, his life also inspired stories in front of the camera — particularly Quentin Tarantino's most recent film.

Kent and Tarantino are said to have met at a screening of The Vengeful Seven, per the MPA. Upon a chance encounter down the line, the director invited the former to lunch, where Kent recalled telling Tarantino about meeting Charles Manson at the Spahn movie ranch. The story eventually made its way into Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, with Brad Pitt filling Kent's shoes (although other stunt actors also inspired the character, Tarantino noted).

Originally from Walla Walla, Washington, Kent wasn't born into the filmmaking business. He played football at University of Washington before dropping out to join the Naval Air Corps. After leaving the military, Kent took up theater as a hobby, and it was only a short while before he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood.

Kent had an expansive career that included both film and TV. He credited his work on Daniel Boone as the beginning of his stunt career, but his work spanned decades — from films like Rainy Day Friends to recent indie horrors, like 2019's Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains.

In 2009, Kent also published his own memoir, Shadows & Light: Journeys with Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywood. He is survived by six children and four grandchildren.

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