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"It usually ends up as a swordfight between a goodie and a baddie"
January 2, 2012 1:05 AM   Subscribe

Wielder of Darth Vader's lightsaber at 60 years of age (while wearing 6" platform shoes under the black cloak to match the character's height); swordplay instructor to Errol Flynn and the cast of Lord of the Rings; swordmaster on dozens of films, including The Princess Bride, Highlander, the modern Zorro franchise and Alatriste: Bob Anderson died today. A highlight reel of some of his work: part 1 and 2.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (61 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by StrangeTikiGod at 1:09 AM on January 2, 2012


What an absolutely amazing career.
posted by rodgerd at 1:29 AM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by safetyfork at 1:46 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:52 AM on January 2, 2012


Thank you, Bora.
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posted by Lukenlogs at 1:58 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by DreamerFi at 2:53 AM on January 2, 2012


Responsible for the best parts of all the best movies. Just amazing.

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posted by EatTheWeak at 3:14 AM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bob Anderson's obit on the James Bond website.
His wikipedia entry.
Obit at Empire Online.
BAF death notice.

Amazing career.
posted by chavenet at 3:17 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: this one has a short video interview.
posted by chavenet at 3:19 AM on January 2, 2012


...a video which is linked in FPP. (er, sorry.)
posted by chavenet at 3:21 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by dragonsi55 at 3:36 AM on January 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by doctor_negative at 3:39 AM on January 2, 2012


I'm reminded of this excellent AskMe: Let's talk about swordfighting in movies. Lots of informed talk therein about Anderson and swordplay.

Rest in perpetual dramatic combat, good sir.
posted by troll at 3:39 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Not The Stig at 4:07 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by cavalier at 4:14 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by brundlefly at 4:26 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


# The Hobbit (2012): Sword Master
# Alatriste (2006): Sword Master
# The Legend of Zorro (2005): Sword Master
# The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003): Sword Master
# Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): Additional Sword Trainer
# The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002): Sword Master
# Die Another Day (2002): Sword Master
# The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001): Sword Master
# The Parent Trap (1998): Fencing Consultant
# The Mask of Zorro (1998): Sword Master
# The Phantom (1996): Sword Master






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posted by infini at 4:35 AM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Princess Bride swordfight is the best-choreographed onscreen duel I have seen, and that includes all manner of Jedi, pirates, Musketeers, samurai, Flynns Errol and Thurmans Uma that I have studied, in lo these many years.

Seriously.
posted by rokusan at 4:39 AM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by tykky at 4:49 AM on January 2, 2012


Another one? Wow. Vader really was a frankensteinish assembly of parts.
posted by Artw at 4:54 AM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Princess Bride swordfight is the best-choreographed onscreen duel I have seen, and that includes all manner of Jedi, pirates, Musketeers, samurai, Flynns Errol and Thurmans Uma that I have studied, in lo these many years.

There's a reason for that. When choreographing Westley vs. Inigo, Anderson pretty much went back and reviewed all of the Errol Flynn fights and picked out his favorite parts. It's sort of a greatest hits medley.

What a talented man. Hollywood won't look the same without him.

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posted by Faint of Butt at 5:15 AM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 5:24 AM on January 2, 2012


"Swordmaster" is a pretty kick-ass title to have on your tombstone.
posted by empath at 5:50 AM on January 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


Damn.

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posted by Shadan7 at 6:07 AM on January 2, 2012


I had a college friend who discovered stage combat sometime our sophomore year -- he was one of those freak situations where you idly sign up for a class in something only to find that not only do you love it, but that you are freakishly good at it; he now teaches and serves as fight choreographer for a lot of NYC productions.

But back in college, when he was just starting, he would watch the swordfights in PRINCESS BRIDE over and over and over, just marveling at how damn good they were. Even if the rest of us were over, he'd be reaching for the remote towards the end of the Wesley-Inigo fight scene and apologetically saying, "sorry, guys, just one more time..." and we'd all groan or tease him as he was rewinding to the beginning again. There's another moment he'd also watch over and over -- a moment right when Inigo finally meets Count Ruger, and takes out five henchmen, singlehandedly, in under ten seconds.

My friend studied these clips not because the moves were awesome, but because they were distinctive. It's a very big part of my friend's philosophy about stage fights -- it's not just a bunch of flashy moves that look cool. It is supposed to tell a story. You ideally should be able to tell exactly what happened, from the beginning of the fight to the end; there should be a story told BY the moves, and meaning behind them, and and arc to them. Fights have PLOT. And my friend GOT that, and that's why he's been so successful -- and he learned that from watching Bob Anderson's fights over and over and over.

From me and Ian, Bob, Godspeed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on January 2, 2012 [26 favorites]


My fencing instructor in college made Princess Bride mandatory watching because he said it was some of the most flawless sword work in modern film. Mr. Anderson was one of a kind.
posted by dejah420 at 6:30 AM on January 2, 2012


Holy mackeral, what a list.


posted by jquinby at 6:33 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by pemberkins at 6:33 AM on January 2, 2012


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Man, I can't believe that the same guy was teaching Errol Flynn and the cast of LotR. That is one awesome career, and made some great movies.
posted by Canageek at 6:54 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by meinvt at 7:14 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by Axle at 7:26 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by anastasiav at 7:37 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by MrBadExample at 7:50 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by w0mbat at 7:58 AM on January 2, 2012


He made a lot of my childhood awesome and a fair amount of my adulthood as well. RIP.
posted by immlass at 8:13 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by Glibpaxman at 8:26 AM on January 2, 2012


The halls of Valhalla will welcome one of their own with feast and fight this night.

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posted by Freen at 8:32 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by Vindaloo at 8:41 AM on January 2, 2012


Perhaps Mr. Anderson's most eminent predecessor was French-born, Belgian-schooled fencing master Frederic Adolphe Cavens (1882–1962), whose filmography covers nearly 40 years of Hollywood's golden age. Caven's most famous (and uncredited) work is Robin Hood vs. Sir Guy with Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).

No hero is half as sharp without a good villain* as his foil, and Basil was the best of the bad: watch him fight a clean-shaven Flynn in Captain Blood: Duel Scene from 1935. A cut above most actors when it came to swordplay, Rathbone learned the finer points of fencing from Cavens in Romeo and Juliet (1936) [scroll down for production stills].

More about cutting edge cinema in the article Master Sword Choreographers and the TCM featurette, Swordfighting in the Cinema.

*Rapier-witted Tim Roth's cat-and-mouse game with rough-hewn Liam Neeson in Rob Roy (1995) is a more recent example: watch their Rob Roy - Final Duel.
posted by cenoxo at 8:42 AM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]



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posted by DuchessProzac at 9:22 AM on January 2, 2012


What a fascinating life.

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posted by Splunge at 9:34 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by dealing away at 10:57 AM on January 2, 2012


It never fails to amaze me how so much goes into a film. All the behind the scenes stuff, often for something that only lasts a few minutes, fleeting seconds of on screen air-time. And it's the big names that take most of the credit, the stars, names who take up half the poster. A very interesting man and a rich career.

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posted by Fizz at 11:24 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by karmiolz at 11:31 AM on January 2, 2012


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posted by Atreides at 12:05 PM on January 2, 2012


How realistic are these sword fights in terms of what would actually happen between two people who had swords and wanted to kill each other? I always thought the sword fight in The Seven Samurai, where there's just one swing and the other guy is dead was more realistic.
posted by delmoi at 12:13 PM on January 2, 2012


I remember reading about Maestro Anderson when I was fencing competitively. I thought it was awesome that he was both Errol Flynn's coach and Darth Vader. Also, I absolutely agree about both of those scenes in Princess Bride: so fantastic.

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posted by sleepinglion at 12:58 PM on January 2, 2012


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posted by Minus215Cee at 1:18 PM on January 2, 2012


How realistic are these sword fights in terms of what would actually happen between two people who had swords and wanted to kill each other? I always thought the sword fight in The Seven Samurai, where there's just one swing and the other guy is dead was more realistic.

I remember that in one of the post-LOTR videos Lawrence Makoare, the actor who played the Uruk Hai leader Lurtz, was asked what would really happen in a sword fight between him and Viggo Mortensen. He said the film pretty much nailed it, he beat the crap out of Viggo and throw him around but in the end he'd get a sword in the chest and his head cut off. Anderson said Mortensen was the best natural swordsman since Errol Flynn.
posted by Ber at 1:30 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


delmoi - I think there's something on the special feature of the Two Towers extended DVD with Viggo Mortenson and Anderson addressing this - that of course a swordfight in a film isn't precisely realistic and precise realism isn't really the point. For instance, that thing where the hero and the villain get their crossbars tangled and shove back and forth while snarling dialog at each other didn't really happen in real world sword fights, but it's great cinema and you will therefore see it in damn near any film with any dueling in it.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:30 PM on January 2, 2012


Aw. We just introduced our children to the magic that is Highlander over Christmas break, since I asked for and received a new Blu-Ray copy to replace my must-missed VHS that was destroyed a decade ago. It was great this morning to see the appreciation on the kids faces as they watched all of the clips posted in this thread. What a fantastic career indeed!

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posted by pink candy floss at 1:52 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by ardgedee at 2:47 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a pity, really, that we couldn't fight with rapiers today, rather than with guns. It's a pity that gunpowder was invented, to my mind, because we would probably still be fighting with rapiers.. and I'd be good at it!

Bob Anderson, Reclaiming the Blade, 2009.

RIP.

(Delmoi, Reclaiming the Blade is instructive re: the differences between choreographed cinematic and theatrical sword fights, modern competitive fencing for sport, and historical European (and to some extent, Eastern) martial arts. Bob Anderson makes many appearances as himself.)
posted by Ahab at 8:47 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


How realistic are these sword fights in terms of what would actually happen between two people who had swords and wanted to kill each other?

In terms of the rapier-style swords in most of them? My understanding, from my in-laws who, with the exception of my mother-in-law, have all fenced seriously at some point, is that they're basically nonsense: fencing, and the actual swordfighting it evolved from, prize economy of motion with the sword (so no big flashy swings), and you never, ever turn your back on your opponent or they kill you (so no spins, turning to retrieve a lost sword, and so on).

Certainly my own experience in unarmed combat (a few street fights, a few years of Judo, a couple of dabs of Aikido) bears that out vis-a-vis most movie unarmed fights. They've gotten more realistic in the last decade, but a "real" fight is typically over very quickly. Swords would make it even quicker.

I really loved the way the Bond clip starts with fencing and runs through a series of different sword types. He must have loved choreographing that one!
posted by rodgerd at 12:43 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by argonauta at 4:55 AM on January 3, 2012


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posted by schmod at 6:52 AM on January 3, 2012


I'm going to be rewatching a whoooole lot of movies. And Reclaiming the Blade, how had I not heard of that?

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posted by theatro at 7:21 AM on January 3, 2012


I became a fencer partly due to the films Bob Anderson choreographed and have long been a fan of his.

When I took up fencing I found Bob was well known and respected in the community, and I learned more about him when I became friends with (and eventually interviewed for a fencing magazine) one of his assistant choreographers.

I'll admit I even left a voicemail for my friend upon learning Bob was working on Lord of the Rings, the voicemail was basically begging to go be an extra in New Zealand. How could I not? Lord of the Rings AND Bob Anderson swordplay? I was so excited. Though I realize now that my phone call was way too late (and they didn't use any US extras / fencers anyway).

Bob, my mask is off and I raise my blade in salute to you.
posted by Fricka at 11:12 AM on January 3, 2012


I became a fencer partly due to the films Bob Anderson choreographed and have long been a fan of his.

Funnily enough the Princess Bride helped tip my wife into the family martial art as well.
posted by rodgerd at 8:56 PM on January 3, 2012


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posted by jabo at 9:13 PM on January 3, 2012


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