Bob Anderson, who wielded Darth Vader’s lightsaber, is dead at 89

Jan. 03, 2012 | 4:42 p.m.
bobanderson trio Bob Anderson, who wielded Darth Vaders lightsaber, is dead at 89

Bob Anderson, left, was an Olympic fencing coach and Hollywood fencing teacher; Ian McKellen, center, plays Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"; and Darth Vader, right, in "Return of the Jedi." (Leon Hill/Associated Press; Pierre Vinet/New Line Productions; and Frank Connor/20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm)

Bob Anderson, the Olympic fencing coach who doubled as Darth Vader during lightsaber duels in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” died on New Year’s Day. He was 89.

Anderson, who competed in the 1952 Olympic Games as part of the British fencing team and went on to coach future fencing teams, began his side career as a sword-fight trainer to the big screen’s swashbucklers after coaching Errol Flynn in “The Master of Ballantrae.” His Hollywood handiwork spans five decades and multiple genres, with credits including “Star Wars,” “The Mask of Zorro,” “Highlander,” “The Phantom,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” several James Bond films and many more.

“The sword is the ultimate weapon,” he said in a 1995 Los Angeles Times interview. “It’s not so threatening shooting at someone at 20 or 30 paces away or while hiding behind things.

“When you get into a sword fight, you’re standing toe-to-toe with someone who’s trying to kill you and you’re looking him in the eye — now that’s thrilling.”

Peter Jackson, director of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the upcoming “The Hobbit” films, praised Anderson on his Facebook page.

“It is a rare, even within the film industry, that you get to work with a legend which was why I was thrilled when Bob Anderson agreed to come on board The Lord of the Rings as our sword-master,” Jackson wrote. “In fact, it took a while for it to sink in that I was going to get to work with the same man who had helped create some of cinema’s greatest fight sequences – from Star Wars to The Princess Bride. Bob was a brilliant swordsman and a gifted teacher; I will remember him as a wonderfully patient man, possessed of a terrific sense of humour. It was a privilege to have known him.”

Read more about Anderson’s life in The Times’ obituary.

— Noelene Clark


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8 Responses to Bob Anderson, who wielded Darth Vader’s lightsaber, is dead at 89

  1. Dean Collingridge says:

    Empirestrikes back was your best work. RIP. grew up loving this fight scene and still do today. From Australia. may the force be with you.

  2. patty beverly says:

    my deepest sympothy to his family and his friends, you were and always will be a work of art, R.I.P. mr anderson

  3. Guest says:

    The sword fight scene in The Princess Bride between Ingo and Westley has to be one of the best every filmed!

  4. Bev Okin-Larkin says:

    He also choreographed the fencing scene in “The Princess Bride” – along with an amazing amount of fencing in Gene Kelly’s “The Three Musketeers” …absolutely dazzling body of work

  5. iris Bautista says:

    I do remember him when he in the mall in Texas. Heput a chair next to him for my mom.all day he was really sweet to us singing autographs all.the he kept saying to my mother for day in the a sweet hart no.i have work.made us.laugh.he ok.but take my years it was burned in afire.we never forgot him.

  6. Sophie says:

    Wow, he's been involved with every iconic sword battle scene on film to date. Loved all those films and scenes. RIP

  7. Simon says:

    What an EXTRAORDINARY life he had! Cheers and great great thank You for the breathtaking fights in those movies we love! Bob Anderson SWORD L E G E N D

  8. Darth Moandor says:

    Rest in peace true leader of Galactic Empire :(

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