You may not recognize the name, but you would definitely recognize his alter ego. He plays Darth Vader. You may say, “Hayden Christensen played Darth Vader…” No, he played Anakin Skywalker. You may say, “I thought James Earl Jones” played Darth Vader. Again, no. David Prowse actually played Darth Vader in all the Star Wars films. In the first one, he wasn’t told that his voice would later be dubbed, so he even memorized and performed all of Darth Vader’s dialogue from underneath his mask. It was only after the film was done, that George Lucas decided that Darth Vader needed a much grander voice and so he hired James Earl Jones to re-dub all of Vader’s dialogue.
Prowse was the one that had to practice all the fight scenes with Mark Hamill and Alec Guinness and spend hours upon hours in the hot costume, acting like the sith lord. To me, Darth Vader wouldn’t be anywhere as menacing as he is without the imposing prescence, authoritative walk, heavy, strong and powerful gestures and movements of David Prowse. You can’t just put someone in that costume and get the same effect. David was/is fantastic.
There’s been a perpetual rift between Prowse and George Lucas over the years. My suspicion is that it started when Prowse was first cast as Darth Vader and given the assumption that he would be the voice as well and after Star Wars became a hit, Prowse wanted to do more to be associated with the role than Lucas was comfortable with. Lucas hinted that he would be seen and heard finally in Return of the Jedi, during Darth’s death scene, but that scene was ultimately given to Sebastian Shaw. This could have simply been done because Lucas wanted another accent in the scene than what Prowse could provide but could also have been because over the course of the 3 films Prowse accidentally dropped spoilers to the press at different times, which angered Lucas. George Lucas went so far as to prevent David Prowse from attending Star Wars Fan Conventions in 2010, and no reason from Lucas was ever given.
Anyway you slice it, it’s a shame as the character and ultimate bad guy in the universe will forever be a jigsaw picture developed and created by a group of effective movie professionals. David Prowse, Sebastian Shaw, George Lucas, James Earl Jones, Bob Anderson (Stuntman Stand-In), Jake Lloyd, Ben Burtt and Hayden Christensen can all claim some participation in creating the legacy of such a fantastic character.
I was saddened to hear that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, never made a profit, which must have been made for over a billion dollars, as David Prowse has gone on record to say that he has never seen any of his profit points for that movie. “I get these occasional letters from Lucasfilm saying that we regret to inform you that as Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) has never gone into profit, we’ve got nothing to send you.”
Well, here’s hoping you get some credit and profit from that movie some day, David.
Things to look up on IMDB:
- David Prowse
- Star Wars
- George Lucas