Back in 2008, Will Smith made headlines when he revealed something unexpected about his celebrity lifestyle. Speaking at the premiere for his film Hancock, the actor told how he and David Beckham had taken up a new hobby together: fencing with Tom Cruise.
“Tom has a room for training,” Smith explained at the time. “We don’t get enough time to hang out, just us three guys, so this is his way of getting together and bonding. David and I go to his home and just do fencing. It’s a lot of fun.”
While you would be hard-pressed to find a more star-studded fencing gathering, the three celebrity friends are far from the only famous people to have fallen for the sport’s charms.
Various actors have been introduced to the fencing while shooting films and television shows. One such example is Grace Kelly, who received tuition from master swordsman Jean Heremans prior to filming a famous fencing sequence in her 1956 film The Swan.
On that occasion, Kelly played a princess who was learning to fence. In more recent times, Madonna went one step further by portraying a fictional fencing instructor in the James Bond film Die Another Day. The fencing scenes in that film were overseen by three-time Olympian Steven Paul. Madonna was so taken by the experience that she later declared that fencing could become a new fitness craze, thanks to its positive impact on both mind and body.
If the celebrities above have one thing in common, it is that they all came to fencing relatively late in their lives. However, there are no shortage of famous figures who excelled at the sport when they were at school.
In 2013, video footage appeared on the internet of a 16 year-old Angelina Jolie discussing her love of fencing. Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was even more dedicated to the sport and became the captain of his high school team. He even wrote about his hobby when applying to Harvard, enthusing about how it was “both social and sport, mental and athletic, and controlled yet sometimes undisciplined”.
However, perhaps the most famous name ever to excel at fencing was Winston Churchill. Letters have been recovered in which a young Churchill wrote to his mother asking for her permission to take up the sport. The future British Prime Minister went on to become a skilled practitioner and even became the national Public Schools Fencing Champion in 1892.