Ex-Olympic fencer who played Darth Vader dies

Mon, Jan 2
12:38
PM ET

LONDON -- Olympic fencer and movie sword master Bob Anderson, who has died at age 89, donned Darth Vader's black helmet and fought light saber battles in two of the three original "Star Wars" films, "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."

Anderson died early New Year's Day at an English hospital, the British Academy of Fencing said Monday.

Vader was voiced by James Earl Jones and played by 6-6 former weightlifter David Prowse, but Anderson stepped in during the key fight scenes despite being several inches shorter.

"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."

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, who represented Britain at the 1952 Olympics and the 1950 and 1953 world championships and later became its national fencing coach, worked as a stunt performer, fight choreographer and/or sword master on such films as the James Bond adventures "From Russia With Love" and "Die Another Day"; fantasy "The Princess Bride"; and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.