Bob Anderson (Robert James Gilbert Anderson)
Anderson was educated at The Royal Hospital School, in Raleigh House. It was here that he began to fence. Anderson joined the Royal Marines and won several combined services titles in the sport of fencing. He served in the Mediterranean during World War II. As a competitive fencer, he represented Great Britain at the Helsinki 1952 Summer Olympic Games, 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 Prof. Roger Crosnier and was appointed the first official British National Coach, in charge of the National Training System, the day he was awarded his full Professorship. He succeeded Prof. Crosnier as President of the British Academy of Fencing. During the late 1950s to 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. 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. Mark Hamill in 1983 revealed, “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 in 1994 specified that for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi he staged the lightsaber duels and also wore the Vader costume in fight scenes. David Prowse, who played Vader, said he did his own swordplay in the first Star Wars film but afterward, “having one of the principals do his own stunts made [the filmmakers] very weird from an insurance point of view.” Anderson continued to work in cinema for the next 30 years, and was responsible for the swordsmanship 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”. 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.” Anderson died on New Year’s Day, 2012 in a West Sussex hospital at the age of 89. After his death his widow, Pearl, and daughter, Simone, visited the Royal Hospital School and donated Anderson’s swords, medals and movie footage for the school’s tercentenary museum.
- September, 15, 1922
- United Kingdom
- Gosport, Hampshire, England
- January, 01, 2012
- United Kingdom
- West Sussex, England