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Bob Anderson (fencer)

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Bob Anderson
Personal information
Born(1922-09-15)15 September 1922
Gosport, Hampshire, England
Died1 January 2012(2012-01-01) (aged 89)
West Sussex, England
Occupation(s)Fencer, cinematic fight choreographer
Medal record
Representing  England
British Empire Games
Gold medal – first place 1950 Auckland Sabre team
Gold medal – first place 1950 Auckland Foil team
Silver medal – second place 1950 Auckland Épée team
Silver medal – second place 1950 Auckland Épée individual
Silver medal – second place 1950 Auckland Sabre individual

Robert James Gilbert Anderson (15 September 1922 – 1 January 2012) was an English Olympic fencer and a renowned film fight choreographer, with a cinema career that spanned more than 50 years and included films such as Star Wars, Highlander, The Three Musketeers, The Princess Bride, The Mask of Zorro, The Lord of the Rings, and Die Another Day. He was regarded as the premier choreographer of Hollywood sword-fighting,[1] and during his career he coached many actors in swordsmanship, including Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Antonio Banderas, Mark Hamill, Viggo Mortensen, Adrian Paul, and Johnny Depp. He also appeared as a stunt double for Darth Vader's lightsaber battles in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.


Anderson was educated at The Royal Hospital School, in Raleigh House. It was here that he began to fence.[citation needed] Anderson joined the Royal Marines and won several combined services titles in the sport of fencing. He served in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.[2]

As a competitive fencer, he represented Great Britain at the Helsinki 1952 Summer Olympic Games,[3] and the World Championships in 1950 and 1953 in the sabre event.[4] 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.[5][6] During the 1960s and 1970s he was also the president of the British Academy of Fencing.[7]

Anderson's cinema career began in 1952,[8][9][10][11][12] when he fought Errol Flynn in the 1953 film The Master of Ballantrae.[7] Patrick Crean staged the fights and coached Flynn, and stated that he called up every fencer he knew to fill out the final battle, which is how Anderson got the job. During rehearsal for a scene he accidentally slashed Flynn on his thigh, leading to notoriety in Hollywood as "the man who stabbed Errol Flynn".[1] 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[citation needed] 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."[5] 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.[13] 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."[13]

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".[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."[6]


Anderson died on New Year's Day, 2012, in a West Sussex hospital at the age of 89.[14]

After his death, his widow, Pearl, and daughter, Simone, visited the Royal Hospital School and donated Anderson's swords, medals and movie footage to a museum.[citation needed]


Miscellaneous crew[edit]




  1. ^ a b c T. Rees Shapiro (2 January 2012). "Bob Anderson, fencing master and coach to Hollywood actors, dies at 89". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  2. ^ Darth Vader stand-in Bob Anderson dies espn.com, 2 January 2012
  3. ^ "Bob Anderson Olympic Results". sports-reference.com. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  4. ^ "British Darth Vader fighter dies aged 89". BBC News. 2 January 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Movie sword-fight master Bob Anderson dies". CBS News. 2 January 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  6. ^ a b "He lived by the sword". The Ottawa Citizen. 2 January 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2012.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (2 January 2012). "Bob Anderson, Sword Master, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  8. ^ "'Master of Ballantrae' Will Star Errol Flynn; Russell Set at Disney's Schallert, Edwin". Los Angeles Times. 7 April 1952. p. B9.
  9. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR (7 April 1952). "FLYNN WILL PLAY PIRATE IN ENGLAND: To Be Starred in 'Sea Rogue,' Based on Stevenson Story, for Warners in Summer". New York Times. p. 20.
  10. ^ An Epic At Sea: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Buena Vista. 2003.
  11. ^ "Robert James Gilbert ANDERSON". Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  12. ^ Weber, Bruce (3 January 2012). "Bob Anderson, Sword Master, Dies at 89". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  13. ^ a b Lovece, Frank (6 May 1994). "British Olympic fencer Bob Anderson trains actors for 'The Three Musketeers'". Entertainment Weekly. No. 221. Published under title "Giving Some Pointers".
  14. ^ "Bond sword master Bob Anderson dies aged 89". mi6-hq.com. Retrieved 2 January 2012.


  • Wallechinsky, David (1984). "Fencing: Sabre, Team". In The complete Book of the Olympics: 1896 - 1980. New York: Penguin Books. p. 264.

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