Darth Vader was such an important role for the original Star Wars trilogy that it required two people to make it a reality — James Earl Jones and David Prowse.
He was 36 years old when George Lucas cast him for the role that would last a lifetime. A 6’7″ bodybuilder from Bristol, England, David Prowse won the British heavyweight lifting championship for three consecutive years from 1962 to 1965.
A few years later, he considered the path of acting, which led to a few character roles in his life. In fact, Prowse played the monster of Frankenstein in three separate films–Casino Royale (1967),The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974).
One of his proudest moments was when David Prowse was given the distinction of MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 2000. This was an honor bestowed on him for his work playing the role of the Green Cross Code Man — a superhero who was invented to promote British road safety in a television campaign that lasted 20 years (1971-1990). A role Prowse said was “the best job [I] ever had.”
However, the character role that mattered the most was as Frank Alexander’s bodyguard, Julian, in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
When George Lucas saw the film, he took notice of David Prowse’s imposing frame and had an idea.
Prowse was asked to try out for a part for this new science fiction movie, but the man actually asked to audition for the part of Chewbacca.
Good thing that request was honored because we were given the gentle giant of 7′ 2″ Peter Mayhew. There was something a little better waiting for Prowse on the Dark Side.
Mourning the Sith David Prowse Became
In 2014, David Prowse told the world he had dementia and he hasn’t been seen much since. Although he continued to sign autographs and tweet from @isDarthVader, we knew the dark shadow Prowse gave us all would be fading soon.
Throughout his career, Prowse was also featured on cult series such as The Saint, Space 1999 and Doctor Who, in which he was cast as a minotaur in the 1972 episode “The Time Monster,” opposite Jon Pertwee.
And today, we found out from his long-time agent, Thomas Bowington, a serious tremor in the Force.
“I Am Your Father,” a 2015 Netflix documentary about David Prowse’s iconic role, aimed to give the “Star Wars” actor the recognition he hadn’t received. Here’s the trailer, if you haven’t seen it.
After hearing his voice, you may understand why George Lucas had James Earl Jones dub his part as the brooding voice of Darth Vader. Prowse even wrote about his Star Wars experience–and slight sadness–in a 2011 memoir, “Straight from the Force’s Mouth.”
“I can walk around with complete anonymity. All actors crave recognition and I’d like to have some like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Fortune tends to follow fame.”David Prowse, Associated Press, Sept. 1980
Despite the regret and how Lucasfilm did him wrong, Prowse was proud to be Lord Vader everywhere. (Fun fact: When Mark Hamill opened Darth Vader’s black mask, we aren’t looking at David Prowse, that was Sebastian Shaw [no, not another Hamill named “Stan”] in glorious prosthetics.)
As you would expect, those who knew and respected David Prowse has shined their own light upon his legacy, beginning with “his son”.
And then, Mayhew’s family shared their thoughts about another fallen giant.
May the Force always be with him. David Prowse was 85 years old.