Bob Anderson, one of the world’s top sword masters and fencing choreographer for such movies as Lord of the Rings, Highlander, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Princess Bride, has died, according to TheOneRing. He was 89.
Anderson, who was born on September 15, 1922 in Hampshire, England, taught many actors fencing techniques and was a stunt double for David Prowse’s Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He actually also trained actor Errol Flynn, who is known for his iconic swashbuckling roles.
According to TheLordOfTheRings.net, after the master swordsman read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books, he “developed sparring methods based on Tolkien’s descriptions of each culture.”
For example, he determined that the hobbits are so small, they should fight as a team. Some, like the axe-wielding Gimli the dwarf, use other kinds of weapons. A commando army of stunt performers was given special training to perfect the unique fighting styles of the Orcs, the Uruk-Hai, The Ringwraiths, the Elves and the other civilizations in Tolkien’s universe. An expert in firing ancient English longbows was also brought in.
His Wikipedia page lists him as “Sword Master” on The Hobbit, the two-part LoTR prequel currently in production with LoTR director Peter Jackson. Anderson is also credited as Sword Master on The Mask of Zorro,The Legend of Zorro, Die Another Day,The Phantom, and many more films. He also has a host of credits for his stunt work, including an uncredited part in Superman II, and he even had an acting role as a “Fighting Guard” in the 1968 Doctor Who episode “The Enemy of the World.”
It appears as though Anderson’s mastery of swordplay and fencing techniques and his ability to train actors to look like master swordsmen were responsible for some of the greatest on-screen sword fights we’ve ever seen. The original Star Wars trilogy, The Princess Bride, and the first Highlander film drew audiences in with and is still hailed til this day for its amazing and memorable swordplay, and there’s no doubting the importance of the blade in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Anderson, who was also an Olympic fencer for Great Britain, appears as himself in Reclaiming the Blade, the 2009 documentary narrated by LoTR actor John Rhys-Davies that focuses on the cinematic choreography of swordsmanship. Actor Viggo Mortensen, who was trained by Anderson in swordplay for his role as Aragorn in the LoTR movies, appears in the doc and talks about Anderson being a master at his craft.
In Reclaiming the Blade, Anderson said, “You know I don’t feel like I found the sword, I feel like the sword found me.” You can watch a clip here below from the documentary of Anderson talking of his experiences, as well as Mortensen describing what it was like to watch Anderson train a fellow actor on set.
RIP Bob Anderson
September 15 1922 – January 1, 2012