Who Performed Darth Vader’s Iconic Light Saber Duels?
Answer: Bob Anderson
Darth Vader was such an epic supervillain that it took not one but three men to bring the character to life. Most people know that deep-voiced James Earl Jones provided the vocals for Darth Vader. Star Wars fans in-the-know are aware that English bodybuilder and actor David Prowse was the man inside the Darth Vader suit. What fewer people are aware of, however, is that there was a third man involved in bringing Darth Vader to life.
Bob Anderson, a highly skilled swordsman and a huge influence on cinematic swordsmanship, was called in to choreograph the fight scenes in A New Hope, then went on to choreograph and perform the fight scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Anderson was an Olympic-level fencer whose cinematic career began by coaching Errol Flynn for his role in The Master of Ballantrae.
He went on to coach and coordinate sword fights in The Moonraker, Don’t Lose Your Head, Kidnapped, and Barry Lyndon before George Lucas snatched him up for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Anderson, 89, passed away in 2012. Here is an excerpt from his obituary and a peek into how he ended up as the sword-hand of Darth Vader:
“David Prowse wasn’t very good with a sword and Bob couldn’t get him to do the moves,” said Anderson’s former assistant, Leon Hill. “Fortunately Bob could just don the costume and do it himself.”
The scenes worked beautifully, although Anderson, then nearing 60, was several inches shorter than Prowse.
Few knew of Anderson’s role until Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, said in a 1983 interview that “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) I didn’t think it was fair any more,” Hamill told Starlog magazine, referring to the legendary director and producer. “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.”
Anderson worked on all three of the original Star Wars films, although the only place you’ll catch a glimpse of his face is in The Empire Strikes Back, where he appears in a cameo role as the rebel fighter (Trey Callum) who delivers the line “Echo Station 3-T-8. We have spotted Imperial walkers.” Anderson later went on to work as the sword master for Highlander, The Princess Bride, The Mask of Zorro, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and numerous other movies.
Image courtesy of Lucas Films.