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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