We begin 2012 with the somber news that celebrated Hollywood sword master Bob Anderson has passed away at the age of 89. The British Academy of Fencing said Monday that the former Olympian died early on New Year’s Day at an English hospital. Anderson was a celebrated swordsman who brought his expertise to some of film’s greatest sword fighting moments.
He helped bring swashbuckling to the big screen with epic battles in The Princess Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Three Musketeers (1993), and Lord of the Rings. But it’s probably Star Wars, the original trilogy, that Anderson is best known for. Because of the rotoscoped lightsaber effects there was little flourish in the style of Star Wars sword fights. Lucas wanted there to be a gravitas to the way lightsabers are wielded, which is why originally you saw them used mostly as a two handed blade.
Anderson not only created the fights in the films, but for Empire and Jedi he donned Darth Vader’s helmet and took up the red lightsaber. But it makes sense as the later sword fights in the series made the Obi-Wan/Vader battle in episode IV look like two old men swinging their canes at each other absentmindedly.
According to Entertainment Weekly Robert James Gilbert Anderson served in the Royal Marines during World War II, and represented Britain in fencing at the 1952 Olympics. His first work in Hollywood was with the classic swashbuckler Errol Flynn on The Master of Ballantrae.
This scene is one of my favorite sword fights in the history of cinema.