Roys Star Wars memorabilia

I admit it.

I was a very geeky Star Wars fan. On May 25, 1977, 40 years ago today, I cut school with a couple of other junior high school buddies to see the highly anticipated opening of George Lucas‘ magnus opus at the Astor Plaza Theater in Manhattan.

I own original Star Wars posters, buttons, trading cards and various promotional items from that period. I even created a quiz that tested the Star Wars acumen of my friends, to very nerdy depths.

One thing I didn’t know at the time was that the iconic baddie in black, Darth Vader, was represented by more than two people. We all knew that David Prowse was the body inside, and that James Earl Jones intoned Vader’s menace with his breathy baritone. But we didn’t know that the swordbuckling Vader was animated by a 1952 Helsinki Olympian from England named Bob Anderson.

Anderson of Alverstoke, Hampshire served in World War II with the Royal Marines, where, according to The Independent, he learned how to fence. After the war, Anderson found success in competition, succeeding in the 1950 British Empire Games before joining TeamGB at the World Championships and the Helsinki Games. While his team finished fifth, Anderson went on to coach Great Britain’s fencing teams for the next five Olympics. His teams took silver at both the 1960 Rome Olympics and 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Along the way, Anderson became the go-to guy for swordbuckling fill-ins and fencing choreography in film. He worked with Errol Flynn in The Master of Ballantrae, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean, and Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Zorro films.

Mark Hamill with Olympian and Darth Vader stand in Bob Anderson
Mark Hamill with Olympian and Darth Vader stand-in Bob Anderson

He was also brought in to choreograph the lightsaber fight between Obi-wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in Star Wars. When Lucas began work for the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, it was likely determined that Prowse could not execute the lightsaber duels to the precision desired. That’s when Anderson the choreographer became Anderson the dark lord. It is Anderson who duels with Mark Hamill in The Empire Strikes Back, and it is Anderson’s Vader who cuts Luke Skywalker’s right hand off.

Anderson went on to reprise Vader’s lightsaber scenes in The Return of the Jedi. At the time, however, Anderson’s screen presence was never officially acknowledged. Upon the release of The Return of the Jedi, which I also saw on opening day, May 25, 1983, Hamill felt he needed to let the world know the truth about his on-screen dad in an interview with Starlog Magazine. “Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting. It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told (director) George (Lucas) I didn’t think it was fair any more. 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.”

I didn’t know this until recently. I will have to add this to my quiz.

Bob Anderson and Mark Hamill training for ROTJ
Bob Anderson training with Mark Hamill in Return of the Jedi
People watch fireworks during New Years
People watch fireworks during New Years celebrations at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on January 1, 2016.AFP PHOTO/ YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

If you ask me – do you want to be freezing in Times Square or swaying in a tropical breeze on the Copacabana when the clock strikes 12 and the fireworks bring in the new year – I have to say, at least for 2016, it’s gotta be Rio.

And to signify the start to Brazil’s 2016 Olympian coming-out party, the fireworks launched to the theme music of the Olympics.

Ah, but which theme? As you can see below when you click on the image below, they play the music actually called “Olympic Fanfare and Theme”. 2016 New Year Fireworks Rio de Janeiro_ao vivo

The “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” was created by famed composer, John Williams, who was commissioned by the United States Olympic Committee to compose a theme for the Los Angeles Olympic Games. In 1984, John Williams had already created the iconic musical themes for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman and Indiana Jones, so it was not a stretch to select Williams.

To be fair, there are always new songs and anthems created for each Olympic Games. The Indie band Elbow created the theme for the London Games in 2012.

And when Europeans in general think of theme music for the Olympics, they likely think of Vangelis and his theme from the movie, Chariots of Fire.

But, as explained in this great summary article from the Smithsonian, American audiences were trained by the networks in the 1970s, primarily ABC, to associate the Olympics with Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream”, which begins with those familiar bass drum beats leading into a trumpet fanfare.

So in the 1990s, there were two themes in America associated with the Olympic Games. At that time, NBC had the rights to the Games, and