Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sword Master Bob Anderson R.I.P.

Bob Anderson, who choreographed sword fights in movies from Master of Ballantrae (1953) to Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and served as a stunt double in many more, passed on 1 January 2012 at the age of 89.

Bob Anderson was born on 15 September 1922 in Gosport, Hampshire, England. He was very young when he took up fencing. In his early Twenties he joined the Royal Marines. During World War II he served in the Mediterranean. Following the war Mr. Anderson taught fencing as an instructor for the various services. He won competition with the bayonet, épée, foil, and sabre. He competed in the sabre event at the World Championships in both 1950 and 1953. In 1952 he he represented the United Kingdom in fencing at the Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. A noted fencer, he was asked to work with Errol Flynn on The Master of Ballantrae at Pinewood Studios. Bob Anderson both choreographed fights for the film and served as a stunt double for nearly all of Errol Flynn's opponents.

The Master of Ballantrae would be the beginning of a long career for Mr. Anderson in film. Over the years he worked in various capacities on many films, including Crossed Swords (1954), The Moonraker (1958), The Guns of Navarrone (1961), From Russia with Love (1963), Carry On Pimpernel (1966), Casino Royale (1967), Kidnapped (1971), the first Star Wars trilogy, Highlander (1987), The Princess Bride (1987), The Three Musketeers (1993), The Mask of Zorro (1998), and Lord of the Rings. He also served as sword master on the TV show Highlander. He also served as the coach for the British national fencing team for 30 years.

It  is well known, at least among Star Wars fans, that it was Bob Anderson who wielded Darth Vader's light sabre in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Mr. Anderson's career went far beyond Star Wars, as he can be credited with choreographing some of the incredible sword fights in cinematic history. In fact, Bob Anderson should not perhaps be remembered best for doubling as Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies, but instead the duel between Westley (Cary Elwes) and Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) in The Princess Bride. While the scene was helped a bit by special effects, most of it was simply Mr. Anderson's skill as a sword master. Indeed, it can be said that with little doubt that movies from Crossed Swords to Highlander would not have been nearly as exciting without Bob Anderson's expertise. If any man deserved the title of "sword master," it was certainly Bob Anderson.

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