In the context of this article and on this day we all fondly remember David Prowse as one of the most menacing villains in cinematic history. He was of course the original body of Darth Vader during the original trilogy, with the voice of Darth Vader having been done by American actor James Earl Jones. However in a special documentary filmed in 2015 called the Force’s Mouth where that original footage was replaced with Prowse reading the lines.
That mini documentary actually stemmed from a friendship he forged with Welsh musician Jayce Lewis, whom Prowse actually went on to manage for a number of years through a combined love of music.
Managment of Lewis is just one of the things outside Star Wars which he is known for, with him actually having acted in a number of films (most notable besides Star Wars probably being a Clockwork Orange), in which he often played a similar sort of role – these were mostly henchmen, executioners and creatures. This is largely due to his physical size and strength, something which he also pursued as a bodybuilder and weight lifter. One other thing which he was well known for back then and actually got an MBE for (for services to charity and road safety) was as the green cross man in television commercials and educational films. A character designed to help teach children in particular about road safety.
At conventions Prowse was always very popular and as an actor he certainly made Darth Vader who he is, however it was far from plain sailing for him during his time with the Star Wars team!
The first thing to note of course is that his physical attributes made him perfect to play Darth Vader, especially his imposing size. The baddest baddie in space should be huge right? At 6 ft 6 inches (just under 2m), he was certainly that! However he is a British actor with a strong west country accent, which is not the most menacing accent in the world, and I think it’s such a huge shame that he was made to feel sidelined on so many occasions. I know that the rest of the cast nicknamed him Darth Farmer and that he was replaced as the voice of Darth Vader by James Earl Jones, the face of Darth Vader by Sebastian Shaw and as Darth Vader the swordsman by Bob Anderson.
His disputes with Lucas Films actually were the focus of a documentary called I am Your Father. People had been angry at him for stating in a speech 1978 where he said that Darth Vader could be Luke’s father, however 2 years before the movie was released and before the script had even been written, it was confirmed many years later that this wasn’t a spoiler but just a good guess… a theory by Prowse. Later something similar happened when Lucas Films claimed that he had leaked to the press about Darth Vader’s death (which was later shown to be unfounded, having been leaked by a technician instead). This lead to a lot of bitterness, even to the point where for a while he had been banned from attending official Star Wars events.
But you know what… He might not have been Darth Vader from start to finish, but he made that character his own and proved that he was the right man for the job when there were scenes such as when he throws the Emperor down the shaft which only he could film. He was a man mountain who took full advantage of his physical attributes to bring truly massive proportions to his roles without the need for effects and camera trickery to get that effect, and whilst Lucas Films may have forgotten about him after his career as Darth Vader, his fans certainly didn’t and whilst his health allowed he was always a welcome addition at fan conventions.
Just like Peter Mayhew who originally came on board to play play Vader himself, but ended up taking the role of Chewie (again due to Prowse’s immense strength), Prowse was a real life gentle giant who will be missed dearly by all who remember him as one of the most incredible villains to ever grace a cinema screen.