Hollywood’s most famous swordfighting coach, Bob Anderson, died New Year’s Day at a hospital in England. He was 89.
Anderson doubled for David Prowse as Darth Vader during lightsaber duels in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This had been kept secret ’til Mark Hamill revealed it a 1983 Starlog interview. George Lucas praised his work in an LA Times obituary:
“Bob Anderson was essential in defining what a lightsaber duel would look like… He was the Jedi Master of the original trilogy, training the actors to duel with a new kind of weapon.”
Anderson worked on many genre films over the years, including The Princess Bride, Highlander, and all three Lord of the Rings movies.
He got his start coaching Errol Flynn on The Master of Ballantrae. Anderson said:
“I believe I learned as much from Flynn as I taught him. In fact, Flynn refused to ‘kill’ anyone else. I think I died six times! I also doubled as Flynn, so there are parts in the movie when I even kill myself.”