Former Olympic fencer and fight choreographer Bob Anderson died on Jan. 1 in West Sussex, England, at the age of 89. Mr. Anderson was one of the unsung giants of action film, with a career spanning MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (1953), where he stunt-doubled for Errol Flynn, to Viggo Mortensen’s ALATRISTE (2006), with stops in between for everything from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963), Stanley Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON (1975), and HIGHLANDER (1986), to the STAR WARS and LORD OF THE RINGS movies. It was actor Mark Hamill who revealed in an interview in 1983 that Anderson had stepped in to play Darth Vader during swordfighting scenes in the STAR WAR series. “Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition,” Hamill explained. Upon hearing of Anderson’s death, director Peter Jackson paid tribute to his frequent collaborator by saying, “Bob was a brilliant swordsman and a gifted teacher; I will remember him as a wonderfully patient man, possessed of a terrific sense of humor. It was a privilege to have known him.”
Bob Anderson began fencing while serving in the British Royal Marines during World War II, and he was a member of the British team in the 1952 Olympics. He went on to coach the British fencing team for many years. After making his mark in the 1953 film with Errol Flynn (literally – he was briefly notorious for stabbing Flynn in the leg during a fencing scene), he became the go-to guy for world-class filmmakers looking for elegantly lethal swordplay. THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987), THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1993), THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998), PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003) - it’s difficult to come up with a high profile Western film that features terrific sword fights, and not find Bob Anderson involved in some way. He trained eager young fencers and some of Hollywood’s top stars, and he treated everyone the same, holding every one of his students to the same high standards he upheld himself. He will be missed.
Watch Viggo Mortensen and Bob Anderson in this clip from RECLAIMING THE BLADE: