I enjoy this guy's work so much. If you look him up at IMDB and run down the list of movies he's worked on, all your favorite sword-fight movies will come up, and some you didn't even think of.
So why can't I find a decent online bio of the guy, his background, his training in real combat and stage combat, his influences, his philosophy?
He was already a champion sport fencer when he was only 16 years old.He was one of the first (if not the first) fight choreographers to break away from the somewhat contrived "swashbuckling" movie fighting style of the 1930s and 1940s.Fave movies of mine that he has done include Rob Roy, The Three Musketeers (w/Michael York, et al>), THE DUELLISTS, and a slew of others.William Hobbs is da man...
I am most interested in his background. Okay, I see he is a sport fencer, but what about his knowledge of historic fighting, hand to hand, and theater? I agree he is da man. There's two big guns in film combat, he is one and Bob Anderson is the other, but Anderson is of the Erol Flynn school (in fact, I think he got his start in that era). Which can be fun. But, man, I love those Hobbs movies! Did you know he did Willow, as well?
From Cohen's By The Sword:Anderson has had one formidable rival as the world's leading fight director: a British Australian now in his sixties, William Hobbs. Born in North London in 1939, Hobbs was brought up by his actress mother, after his father, a Royal Air Force pilot, was killed in the last months of the Second World War. It was a bohemian upbringing: his aunt was a dancer with the renowned Windmill Theatre and once won a prize for "the second best legs in England"; his elder half brother went into the circus. The family lived in Australia for several years, and it was there that "Bill" as he had become, began fencing in 1954. He narrowly failed to make the Australian team for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and in 1957 moved back to London to enroll at the Central School for Speech and Drama; Judi Dench was a contemporary, as was Vanessa Redgrave. "Most actors say that they are good fencers," Hobbs says. "That's a lie: they're not."What impresses me is that he began fencing in '54, and came close to making the Olympic team only 2 years later--he must have been quite a fencing prodigy. Today, at least, one is considered a novice until one has had 2 years of training.By the time he was invited to move into film, Hobbs was well prepared. In 1972 Ridley Scott approached him to orchestrate the fights for The Duellists--where the duels take up at least half the movie. [note: if this date is correct, then Scott consulted Hobbs many years beforehand, as The Duellists was not made until 1977--TFS] "I don't want any of that old tosh--I want it real," Scott told him. Hobbs was in complete agreement: "From the beginning I wanted to break away from all the Hollywood stuff I'd seen. What interested me was the story, the drama. I was excited by the people. The pauses we put into the fights in that film were phenomenal, but we wanted to get across the awful feeling that you believe you'll be dead on the floor. In the end, the realism is in the fear." A fencing phrase, he says, should have the same feeling as two serpents recovering their balance before resuming their attacks on each other. "The best such scenes--Orson Welles's Chimes at Midnight, or Seven Samurai--are good precisely because they don't show you everything. Men running through the fields, a body falling in mud, a momentary clash of blades: the audience supplies the rest."
More. More, I say!