Bob Anderson, Hollywood Swordmaster, Dies at 89

Bob Anderson, the guy who wielded swords in  many movies and taught other stars to swordfight realistically, has died at the age of 89, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The British-born Anderson began his career as a champion fencer after serving in World War II, eventually working his way up to Olympic fencing coach. Then one day he got a call to help legendary cinematic swashbuckler Errol Flynn to work in his swordfighting chops, and a very successful second career was born.

Bob Anderson

“Star Wars” geeks probably already know that it was David Prowse instead of James Earl Jones in the suit for most of the scenes, but the famous lightsaber scenes were actually done by Anderson instead. It was supposed to be a secret, but Mark Hamil finally spilled the beans in 1983.

When he wasn’t actually wielding the swords himself, he was teaching other actors how to handle the weapons realistically. Among his clients, were Sir Ian McKellan, better known as Gandalf to “Lord of the Rings” fans. He also lent his talents to productions like “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” He was apparently very dedicated to his work. Martin Campell, director of “The Mask of Zorro” and “The Legend of Zorro,” said he earned the nickname “Grumpy Bob” on the set.

Despite his extensive movie work, he still found time to coach six times in the Olympics, from 1956 to 1976.

He is survived by his wife Pearl and three children.

We also lost a couple of other geek icons in 2011. Check out our obituaries on Steve Jobs and Unix and C creator Dennis Ritchie.