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Legendary sword master Bob Anderson dies.

It is reported that the sword-fighting trainer and choreographer passed away today, at the age of 89. Bob Anderson was a behind-the-scenes name little known to many fans but who had a tremendous impact not only on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but on cinema itself. Anderson’s many credits include: Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Princess Bride, Highlander and much more. From thelordoftherings.net: “Bob Anderson, the world’s top sword master who has consulted on such films as Star Wars and trained the legendary Errol Flynn, was also brought in to train the actors in different fencing techniques. An expert in medieval arms, Anderson read the novel and then developed sparring methods based on Tolkien’s descriptions of each culture.”

For my money, his two greatest contributions as sword master and/or choreographer are in The Princess Bride and the first Pirates of the Caribbean. Maybe the massive three-act Battle of Amon Hen in Fellowship of the Ring as the third greatest, but for pure fencing swordsmanship and iconic fun, the first two. However, he actually was Darth Vader in a couple of the Star Wars movies:

Anderson also owns a claim to fame for being a swordfighting trainer for several films, as well as a stunt double for Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. He is one of seven people to have played that character. [...] Anderson did not receive much recognition for his role in the Star Wars films for years after their initial release, in part because David Prowse was so lauded for his portrayal that director George Lucas did not want to detract from the boost it gave the actor's career. In a 1983 interview, however, Mark Hamill paid homage to Anderson's contribution, saying, "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."

There is very little I love in movies--perhaps in life--more than a good sword fight. If anyone deserves an Oscar montage this year, it's Bob Anderson, and it would be the most entertaining thing in the whole show.

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This made me very sad. I hope he gets something at the Oscars, too!

I've been thinking they need to have a stunts Oscar for years. Unfortunately with CGI taking over, that looks less and less likely every year. :(

And Andy Serkis would finally win ALL THE AWARDS.

They do have the Taurus World Stunt Awards, if that makes you feel any better?

I think I might have been in my early teens when I started hearing about Bob Anderson. It probably tied in around the time when I got interested in Errol Flynn films and would be reading snippets about Old Hollywood where I could find them. This was the late 80's so it took some researching. And then his name would crop up in other places with regards to other films and I'd see those films and think 'he makes it so easy'.

So when it came to the LoTR films and there would be a quote from Bob Anderson about Viggo Mortensen or Orlando Bloom being good with swords before the films came out, I think that's when I knew the films would do well because they were clearly doing it right.

The Princess Bride swordfight is excellent and entertaining. No mean feat that.

Having just watched the Princess Bride clip again--the amazing thing is how complex the hand and foot work is, and yet the actors are very calmly bantering the whole time. I can't even imagine the amount of rehearsal that must have taken.

I had heard that one of the reasons Elwes and Patinkin were cast is that they were both already fencers, and so were able to handle the incorporation of the historical fencing styles into the scene (everything they name is a real style/master, and they're doing the proper moves, too. According to my friends who study these things, anyway).

It is one of the prettiest fight scenes ever. Oh, Westley (swoons)

May I link to this entry?

I had heard about the death but had no idea that is credits extended so widely.

Like you I love a good sword fight in a film going right back to the ones in the historical romps starring Flynn and others.

While I acknowledge the role of CGI there is nothing like a real sword fight and the ballet of movement needed to pull it off.

Sure thing.

no idea that is credits extended so widely.

He worked with Errol Flynn, even, although I think at that point it was more stunt work and general training, not sword-master choreography.

there is nothing like a real sword fight and the ballet of movement needed to pull it off.

I think one of the things I really loved about the LOTR sword work is that it's beautiful and creative work, but with a desperate and ugly edge--the Princess Bride and Pirates clips are really about two antagonists putting each other through their paces, so virtuoso footwork is appropriate. But Anderson also knew (because I remember him talking about this on the DVD) that the LOTR characters would be fighting to kill, fighting for their lives, so there wouldn't be a lot of pretty clink-clink blade parrying. There would be stabbing and slashing and dispatching the enemy as quickly as possible, and not with an elegant little fencing poke, either. Which is why most of the really great Amon Hen sword choreography involves the characters taking on five million antagonists at once, instead of a single enemy for five minutes solid.

Thank you - I've ordered the DVD.

Are you excited about awards season? I do look forward to your accounts.

I'm also very excited about The Tolkien Society's Return of the Ring event in August. Being held quite close to me as well. The filsm have really opened them out from being a very literary society to a lot more fun.

Such sad news. He was several kinds of awesome.

I will always remember him as the guy behind the scenes of the movies that made me interested in fencing and swordfighting. He was just fantastic. Such terrible news.

There is very little I love in movies--perhaps in life--more than a good sword fight. If anyone deserves an Oscar montage this year, it's Bob Anderson, and it would be the most entertaining thing in the whole show.

I could not agree more with every word in that paragraph, Cleo.

(Hmph! 2012 is irking me already.)

My favorite fight scene ever--EVER--is Aragorn's fight with the Uruk-Hai captain Lurtz at the end of the Battle of Amon Hen.


If for nothing else than the TING! at 00:40. That's so friggin' badass. And then there's what you were talking about, the ugly, fighting-for-our-lives stuff, right there at the end when he just goes OFF on Lurtz.

Bob Anderson was clearly an important part of making some of my favorite movies as awesome as they were. He will be sorely missed.

If they did a montage of his sword fights at the Oscars, you're right--it would be the best montage EVER.

because it's relevant: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO :(

i'm so sad to hear about his passing. it would be really great if there was some commemoration for him at this year's oscars. i'm going to keep my fingers crossed. he really was a magnificent fight scene choreographer.

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The sword fights and stunts in Mask of Zorro are amazing! I always loved it for that old-school action movie feel.

Other, less lauded achievements include inspiring me to take all the wrapping paper off the roll found hidden in my mom's closet so that I could run around the house making lightsaber noises from ages 4-7.

"In a 1983 interview, however, Mark Hamill paid homage to Anderson's contribution, saying, "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."' And this is why I will always support Mark Hamill - not only is he wonderfully kind to fans (he apologized to me for having to type a response, not hand write it, when I sent him a fan letter. I was seven and the mere fact that he responded to me at all makes me happy) he's an amazing man all around.

Rest in the Force, Mr. Anderson.

2012 sucks so much already.

I saw your post about him on tumblr this morning and was telling my dad as I read it and kept having to add "And he did Pirates! And Star Wars! And PRINCESS BRIDE!! And he trained Eroll Flynn!" What an amazing, influential career.

He truly was a master and his work pretty much defined my childhood. I've probably watched "The Princess Bride" at least a hundred times over the years, no exaggeration, and even though it's on TV a lot these days the one scene I always have to stop and watch if I catch it is the swordfight. RIP, Bob.

I'm not positive I knew his name, but I absolutely know his work. I'm in agreement with your choices. I'm so glad we have the work to cherish. </p>

I read that interview with Mark Hamill at the time (I believe it was in Starlog, that's how old I am), and there was some pretty significant fallout in the fandom, of the type that would feature on FW if it had happened in the internet age. I always appreciated the sense of fairness and respect in Hamill's chice to say something, though.

Fallout? Because he exposed that it wasn't just Prowse?

Yeah. Prowse was pretty upset and felt he was being dissed (and I have a vague memory of Lucasfilm not being happy about it all, like Hamill didn't get okayed to say it, but don't hold me to that, it was a long time ago), and one faction of fandom fell in with him, while others were on Hamill's side and some were just mad at Lucasfilm for not being upfront. Of course this was mostly in magazine and fanzine letters columns, so it was slow and muted compared to nowadays, but it was enough for me to recall it as noteworthy. </p>

I'm reasonably certain I still have the interview with Hamill in a scrapbook. I don't know if I kept any of the stuff about the fallout. I just moved so everything is packed up and likely won't be unpacked for a week or two. But if there's any interest, I can go through it all when it's available again.

Of course this was mostly in magazine and fanzine letters columns, so it was slow and muted compared to nowadays

Primordial wank! I love it.

If memory serves, Prowse has--er--a history of feeling dissed, does he not? Isn't there some sort of bad feeling between him and Lucas nowadays?

If you have the new Princess Bride DVD set, there's interesting information on the Elwes and Patankin duel in the documentaries and audio commentaries, although I don't recall if Bob Anderson's name is mentioned. It remains my favorite movie sword fight.

IIRC, they don't explicitly name Bob Anderson- they talk about him as "the guy who trained Errol Flynn!" but don't mention his name. Great special features, though.

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'Princess Bride' is my favorite movie to quote from and it has the best duel sequence ever:
Inigo: You are using Bonetti's Defense against me, ah?
Wesley: I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.
Inigo: Naturally, you must suspect me to attack with Capa Ferro?
Wesley: Naturally... but I find that Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro. Don't you?
Inigo: Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa... which I have.

"I would sooner destroy a stained glass window than an artist like yourself."

He did excellent duels--my favorite of his is POTC, which is so very original and varied.

I don't think he did the one in The Court Jester, but here it is, for the fun of it:


my fencing career was short, only 2 years, and my record was not awesome, only one win, but i loved every minute of it. my team fenced at a national level (no thanks to me) and the trips and the fights and the friendships were amazing. i owe it all to him.
i still love to fence. i would love to get back into it. mostly i haul my skills out around christmas time, with cardboard tubes. its still awesome, and i am unbeaten for the 3rd year in a row this year.

he will be missed.

Aww man, this makes me so sad! His work was incredible. I still remember being in junior high school drama and we had a short unit on stage fencing and what did we watch for reference? That awesome scene from The Princess Bride, of course.

That sucks so much. Someone needs to start a petition to the Academy to have Bob get a serious nod and montage at the Oscars this year. He deserves it, after having created some of the most memorable scenes in film in the last 50-plus years.

Oh, thank you for bringing this to my attention. You're right, he deserves a great deal of homage.

Aww, that's too bad. There are a lot of very sad people in Hollywood over this one, I'm sure.

After 89 years, he goes up to the big swordfight in the sky. Be not saddened, internet. As in his onscreen battles, death is a part of life.

My favorite of his so far is the work he did in "Alatriste" a Spanish movie starring Viggo Mortensen based on a very popular series of novels here.
The work he did with the fight scenes was one of the things that for me stayed closer to the spirit of the novels and the setting in Seventeenth century spain.

I agree about the Oscar montage. Not only would it be fun for us to watch, but can you imagine how fun it would be for the people putting it together?

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