What better description could one possibly achieve in his obituary than being described as a “swordmaster”? Stop trying, there is none.
Bob Anderson, who I hadn’t previously heard of, recently passed on at the ripe old age of 89. Apparently he was Darth Vader, and fenced with notorious swordsman (not to be confused with swordmaster) Errol Flynn.
As a stunt double, Bob Anderson … reigned supreme in the fencing department, earning the title of “swordmaster”. Given the partly Japanese genesis of the Star Wars franchise, it was an apt description of the man who wielded the lightsaber for Darth Vader in his duels in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). In 1983 Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, blew Anderson’s cover in an interview: “Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting. It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told George [Lucas, the creator] 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.” But Anderson had been quite happy to remain out of the spotlight ever since he entered the film industry as the fencing coach and stunt double opponent to Errol Flynn in The Master of Ballantrae (1953).
“I arranged the fights and in the action sequences I doubled almost everyone who fought Flynn,” he recalled. “I doubled five actors in that film and when it was cut together, one sequence showed me killing myself because I had doubled two actors who actually had a fight together.” At one stage during rehearsals, Anderson slashed Flynn in the thigh by accident, drawing blood, while the star was being distracted by a passing beauty. This led to Anderson’s reputation among Hollywood insiders as “the man who stabbed Errol Flynn”.
Rest in peace.