Bob Anderson as Darth Vader on set of Return of the Jedi

Bob Anderson, the legendary sword-master and fight director who fought as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, died this weekend at the age of 89.  He died early New Year’s Day at an English hospital, the British Academy of Fencing said Monday.

Not only was Anderson a renowned fight director, but was an Olympic fencer.  He served in the Mediterranean during World War II and later trained as a fencing coach and represented Britain at the 1952 Olympics and the 1950 and 1953 world championships.

In the 1950s, Anderson became coach of Britain’s national fencing team, a post he held until the late 1970s. He later served as technical director of the Canadian Fencing Association.

Anderson worked with actors from Errol Flynn to Antonio Banderas and Viggo Mortenson.  For over 50 years Anderson applied his craft to some of the most iconic sword fighting scenes in the movies.

In the original Star Wars movies, Anderson stood in for weightlifter David Prowse during fight scenes.

“David Prowse wasn’t very good with a sword and Bob couldn’t get him to do the moves,” said Anderson’s former assistant, Leon Hill.

“Fortunately Bob could just don the costume and do it himself.”

The scenes worked beautifully, although Anderson, then nearing 60, was much shorter than Prowse.

At first, the Star Wars scenes were kept secret, until actor Mark Hamill revealed the it was Anderson and not Prowse who wielded the lightsabre: “Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting. It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told [George Lucas] I didn’t think it was fair anymore. Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition. It’s ridiculous to preserve the myth that it’s all done by one man.”

Anderson’s career started nearly 60 years ago when he staged fights for the 1952 Errol Flynn film The Master Of Ballantrae. He would go on to choreograph fight scenes in the Bond movies From Russia With Love and Die Another Day, as well as The Legend Of Zorro, and The Princess Bride. In his work on Lord of the Rings, Anderson reportedly crafted several different fighting styles for the various cultures in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, working from the author’s descriptions of the characters in the novels [via].

Here’s some cut footage from a documentary called Reclaiming the Blade (which you can watch on Netflix Instant), in which Viggo Mortensen speaks of the swordsman with the utmost respect:



CBC News:

Obit from the AP


1 Comment

  • Madison_kiah, January 7, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

    Rest in peace Bob Anderson.  Will remain a fan forever.

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