The decision to join the local fencing club as a 16-year-old was not usual for a teenage boy living in Australia in the 1960s. This choice proved to be a wise one that would lead him on a quest to unexpected places where he met legendary characters, thus changing the course of his life. Rebecca Moore shares his story.
Luke Skywalker precariously edges his way along the bridge suspended within the walls of the Cloud City of Bespin. Suddenly Darth Vader appears wielding his red lightsaber. Luke quickly draws his blue lightsaber and the dual begins. Sparks and flashes of red and blue light appear as the sabers clash. Darth Vader’s attempts to lure Luke to the dark side fail despite Luke losing his right hand during the battle. As Luke balances on the edge of a railing, Vader reveals, “I am your father!” Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Star Wars is popular in our family. It has captured the imagination of generations without losing its appeal. Over the years, my children have had many lightsaber duals in and around the house of which I have been rallied into on occasion.
These lightsaber battles drew their interest to the local fencing club at Buderim. Here, they exchange their lightsabers for foils and live out their adventures under the safe tuition of their fencing master, Gary Worsfield.
As my children clashed swords one day, I happened to mention to Gary how much they love the Star Wars movies.
“I worked with Bob,” he said.
“Who?” I asked.
“Bob Anderson, the man who played the role of Darth Vader in the duelling scenes.”
As I picked my jaw up off the floor I thought to myself, ‘Now there’s a story I need to investigate.’
Gary was born in Sussex, England in 1951. He moved to Australia with his family in 1955. The swashbuckling movies of the 1950s inspired Gary to the point where at age 16 he went looking for an interesting sport to learn. The archery club was too far away so he joined the fencing club.
This is where he was trained by fencing master, John Fethers who had been taught alongside Bob Anderson and Mike O’Brien by world-acclaimed and legendary fencing master, Roger Crosnier. Gary developed his fencing skills to an exceptional level which took him on a very different road to what he had planned.
“I actually wanted to be primary school art teacher. If I wasn’t a fencer, that’s what I would’ve been,” he confided.
After completing all necessary training in Australia, Gary travelled overseas to gain the qualification of Fencing Master. With a letter of recommendation from Fethers, he met up with Bob Anderson (Darth Vader) in Canada where they worked together on a school’s fencing program and Gary had the privilege of training under his tutelage for some time.
Anderson then went on to win many competitions, choreograph and double as a stunt man in movies such as Star Wars, Zoro, Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond and most recently as sword master for the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit. He was often uncredited for his work and died in January 2012, largely unknown. It was a great loss to Gary.
After training and working with Bob Anderson, Gary honed his art of fencing in the theatre assisting actors and designing sequences for big productions in the ballet and Opera arena both here and overseas.
‘I almost threw all this in at one stage,’ Gary says as he remembers some frustrating times. Yet he’s glad he didn’t because he has learnt that if you pursue your talents long enough, you realise that you have something unique to offer to the world.
Gary’s career was then jettisoned into the stratosphere of Hollywood when he landed the role of choreographing the fight scenes and assisting in the casting of pirates for the 2003 movie, Peter Pan. He thoroughly enjoyed this role where he assisted with the creation of movie making and found working with the actors to be rewarding as they were professional and eager to attain high results.
Then the unthinkable happened. Only two years ago, Gary’s world was turned upside down when his now adult son was a victim in a terrible car accident. He survived but sustained fourteen broken bones. Gary was shattered by this and put his life on hold to care for and support his son. He spent many months by his son’s side in hospital and now enjoys a slower pace of life as he helps his son recuperate.
Gary has had an extraordinary life traveling the globe promoting fencing and winning multitudes of awards in this field. Despite his overwhelming success in the movies and theatre, his passion lies within the art of teaching and he has been able to introduce fencing into over thirty different primary and secondary schools throughout Queensland.
Amongst many other unknown gems, we have an incredible wealth of talent and experience right here on Buderim’s doorstep. Who would’ve known that in the little hall tucked away on Ballinger Road is a fencing master with such a unique story?
When all is said and done, Gary is a man who values people, who knows the worth of his family and knows that the true riches of life exist with the ones you love.
“There’s nothing more important than family,” he says.
Gary, as Obi Wan Kenobi says in Star Wars…May the force be with you!
Gary teaches at the Buderim En Guarde! School of Fencing on Ballinger Road. You can read more about Gary Worsfield as well as see excerpts of scenes and interviews from Peter Pan at www.fencingonline.com/academy/gary_worsfield. There are also details on class location and times on this site.
Written and first published for the Goodlife Magazine (c)Rebecca Moore 2013