July 1, 1935 – November 28, 2020
The Star Wars community has lost another legend from the original trilogy. David Prowse, the 6’-7” actor and bodybuilder who portrayed Darth Vader in Star Wars episodes four, five, and six has passed away. He was 85.
Born July 1, 1935 in Bristol, England, he became known in the UK as a bodybuilder who won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship three years running (from 1962 to 1964).
Later, he was able to transition to acting in television and movies, appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Tomorrow People (1973), and in three Hammer horror films as Frankenstein’s Monster.
He became quite well known in the UK for his portrayal of the “Green Cross Code Man” in public service commercials promoting road safety aimed at children, for which he was awarded an MBE (Order of the British Empire) award in 2000.
According to a 2008 interview that he did with NPR (available here) he said that George Lucas originally offered him his choice of two parts, that of the Wookiee, Chewbacca, or the part of the chief bad guy, Darth Vader.
“And all I could think of was 3 months in a gorilla skin… how hot and sweaty and smelly that’s gonna be,” Prowse told NPR, “and I thought, No, you can keep that one, George.” When Prowse chose to be the villain, George Lucas asked him why. “And I said, ‘Well, if you think back on all the movies that you’ve ever seen where there are goodies and baddies… you always remember the baddie.’”
And we are all so happy that he chose the way he did. Even though the voice of Vader would eventually go to the incredible James Earl Jones, it was Prowse’s menacing presence on screen that captivated every kid (and kid at heart) who ever sat in a darkened theater and listened to that iconic breathing.
According to George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, in an article on starwars.com “David brought a physicality to Darth Vader that was essential for the character. He made Vader leap off the page and onto the big screen, with an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader’s presence. David was up for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable, tragic figure. May he rest in peace.”
Not gone, merely marching far away.