Actress and Stuntwoman Diane Peterson has worked in stunts for over 40 years. According to the Malibu Times, “If filmmakers need someone to drive a sports car into a lake, ride a horse at a gallop, get chased by a helicopter, ride motorcycles, fall through a window, fight, scuba dive, catch fire during an explosion, get run over and any number of other action scenarios, she gets the call.”
Diane Peterson grew up in Elmwood Park, New Jersey where she began riding a pony at the age of 3. She began jumping horses by the time she was seven and would go on to win numerous awards and ribbons for her riding. Her father owned and trucking company and he gave Diane a love for driving. When she was 17 she got a little more horse power under her in a Corvette, and she began drag racing where she also won trophies at three different speedways.
She graduated from the University of Miami with a BA Degree in Drama. She did a stint as a Playboy Bunny in Great Gorge, New Jersey and then London, England. She then got her career in entertainment started in New York with an acting role in the television crime series Kojak (1973-1978). While working on Kojak she watched two stuntmen do a car chase and she knew she found her calling.
Women working in stunts in the 70’s had a difficult time. It wasn’t until the late 80’s that this changed and the Union got involved and men were no longer suppose to work as women. But when Diane started, men were still wigging up, but this didn’t change Diane’s desire to pursue stunt work.
Says Diane in an article on Bustle, “I went over to the stuntmen when they were done, and I said, ‘I’d like to be a stuntwoman. I ride horses and motorcycles and I race my car in quarter-mile drags,’” she remembers. “And they said, ‘Forget it, honey, we put the wigs on and we do it.’”
Her first stunt was getting hit by a car and when the stunt did not go well she nearly gave up. However, when one of the stuntmen spoke her language and told her, “It’s like falling off a horse—you need to go back and try again.” She understood about falling off horses, and she went ahead and a performed the stunt well and she has been performing stunts since.
Diane continued to work in New York with the Eastcoast Stuntmen’s Association for two years and then she moved to Los Angeles were, to her surprise, she began working almost immediately.
Diane Peterson has been in 85 feature-length films and 45 different television series. She has stunt doubled actresses Sharon Stone, Diane Keaton, Farrah Fawcett and Rebecca De Mornay, and other in various films. She was the stunt double for Jessica Lange in King Kong (2005) and a stunt driver in The Green Hornet (2011). She has been blown out of a hut into a South Africa river at night in River of Death (1989). She was chased by a helicopter while galloping a horse through the desert when the horse reared up and spun her around, but she held her saddle. She also played a first-class passenger rescued from a lifeboat as it tipped over into the water in the film Titanic (1997) which was being filmed in Rosarita Beach, Mexico.
Besides doing stunt work, Diane Peterson became President of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures for seven years working to make a difference for all women who work in the stunt industry.
On October 18, 2018 Diane Peterson returned home to Elmwood, New Jersey where she was inducted into the Elmwood Park Athletic Hall of Fame.