Bob Anderson, the legendary sword master responsible for the lightsaber fight scenes in the “Star Wars” movies, died on New Year’s Day at 89 years old.
Anderson, whose career started off as English Olympic fencer, took up stunts and fight choreography, eventually managing to play a key role in the development of “Star Wars” antagonist Darth Vader.
Although the physically intimidating Darth Vader character was originally played by bodybuilder David Prowse, many of the dueling portions of the films required Anderson to step into the black, caped costume himself.
“David Prowse wasn’t very good with a sword and Bob couldn’t get him to do the moves,” said the sword master’s former assistant Leon Hill. “Fortunately Bob could just don the costume and do it himself,” he told The Associated Press.
Despite his considerable contribution to the widely acclaimed science fiction trilogy, Anderson was not credited for his work for six years. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the first three movies, gave an interview, exposing what he felt was an injustice.
"Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader's fighting,” Hamill told Starlog magazine in 1983.
According to Hamill, director George Lucas did not want to credit Anderson for his sword fighting prowess because he wanted to maintain the myth surrounding Darth Vader. In addition, Prowse’s acting career was jump-started by his role as the cloaked villain, and Anderson’s involvement could have hindered the weightlifter’s transition into film.
Still, Hamill insisted that Lucas give credit where credit was due.
"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,” said Hamill.
Public acknowledgement of Anderson’s fencing skills proved to be a valuable catalyst to his 50-year career as a stunt coordinator. Over the course of his life, the Englishman worked with actors like Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, and Sean Connery and was considered one of the best sword fighters in the industry.
Robert James Gilbert Anderson (September 15, 1922- January 1, 2012) died peacefully around 4 .a.m in a West Sussex hospital, according to The British Academy of Fencing. The president of the organization, Phillip Bruce, released his sentiments on the group’s website.
“He was truly one of our greatest fencing masters and a world-class film fight director … both the fencing community and film world will miss him,” wrote Bruce.