In Memory of a Swordsman

I suppose I’m getting known for my geek-filled posts on here, but this one had to be posted. Bob Anderson is a name not everyone might know, let alone Robert James Gilbert Anderson. If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s and were a sci-fi/fantasy fan then this man was undoubtedly part of your childhood. Even more recently, he’s had his hands in the fantasy/sci-fi world. In Case you don’t know the man, here’s a little about him.:

Bob Anderson joined the Royal Marines and won several combined services titles in the sport of fencing. He served in the Mediterranean during WWII. As a competitive fencer, he represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games in 1952, and the World Championships in 1950 and 1953 in the sabre event. He finished tied for fifth in the team sabre event at Helsinki in 1952. After his retirement from fencing competition, he studied under Roger Crosnier and was appointed the first official British National Coach. During the late 1950s through the 1970s he travelled around Britain, and between fencing courses he combined his official duties with television and film work. Eventually emigrating to Canada, he went on to become technical director of the Canadian Fencing Association in Ottawa.[5][6] During the 1960s and 1970s he was also the president of the British Academy of Fencing.

Anderson’s cinema career began in 1953 when he choreographed fights for and coached Errol Flynn in The Master of Ballantrae. During rehearsal for a scene he accidentally slashed Flynn on his thigh, leading to notoriety in Hollywood as “the man who stabbed Errol Flynn”. He went on to work as a stunt performer and/or fight choreographer in films such as The Guns of Navarone and the Bond films From Russia With Love and Casino Royale. His stature in Hollywood was cemented when he was selected by Stanley Kubrick in 1974 to act as the sword master for Barry Lyndon.

Anderson subsequently went on to be involved in all three of the original Star Wars films. Anderson did not receive much recognition for his work for years after their initial release, in part because David Prowse was so lauded for his portrayal that director George Lucas did not want to detract from the boost it gave the actor’s career. In a 1983 interview, however, Mark Hamill paid homage to Anderson’s contribution, saying: “Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting. It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told George I didn’t think it was fair any more. 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 continued to work in cinema for the next thirty years, and was responsible for the sword work in many films, including Highlander, The Princess Bride, The Three Musketeers, The Mask of Zorro, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Shortly before his death he was working on The Hobbit. He had a reputation for being a perfectionist, with director Martin Campbell giving him the nickname “Grumpy Bob”.[1] Anderson was interviewed at length for the 2009 documentary on cinematic sword-fighting, Reclaiming the Blade where he commented, “I never took up the sword, I think the sword took me up.”

On New Years day 2012, Anderson died in a West Sussex hospital at the age of 89. Though he is no longer with us; whenever anyone watches Star Wars and enjoys the fight scenes with Darth Vader, whenever someone sits riveted by the fight scene between Inigo Montoya & Westley on that high rocky cliff overlooking the ocean, whenever anyone sits in enjoyment of his craft, his memory lives on.

Below is a list of some of the films in which Bob Anderson was Sword Master, Additional Sword Trainer, & Fight Arranger:

The Hobbit, Alatriste, The Legend of Zorro, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Die Another Day, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Mask of Zorro, The Phantom, Highlander:The Series, The Princess Bride, & *Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

(Thanks to Wikipdeia for its wealth of information.)

RIP Robert James Gilbert Anderson (15 September 1922 – 1 January 2012)

5 comments on “In Memory of a Swordsman

  1. This guy was awesome! I loved his bits on the LOTR behind the scenes and he inspired me to take fencing lessons for a few months. It’s so much fun and I hope I can take it up again sometime. Great post!

  2. I used to do swordfighting at renaissance fairs, and Bob Anderson was one of my main inspirations. I tried to mimic his choreography, and I’m so deeply saddened by his passing. Great post.

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