Friends, it is with a very heavy heart that we pass along the sad news that David Prowse, the actor who played the physical role of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy passed away yesterday at the age of 85. While of course it was James Earl Jones who provided the commanding and memorable voice for the Dark Lord of the Sith, it was three-time-winner of the British heavyweight weightlifting champion turned actor who was in the iconic suit. Which included dueling with Sir Alec Guinness in 1977’s Star Wars – although in The Empire Strikes Back as well as Return of the Jedi he was replaced by sword master Bob Anderson (Barry Lyndon, Highlander). David Prowse earned his first screen role however in 1957 in the long-running TV series entitled The Edge of Night. Although he would find steady work in television and film starting in 1967 in the spy spoof Casino Royale – very LOOSELY based on the 1953 book debut of James Bond by Ian Fleming – where he portrayed Frankenstein’s Creation.
A fitting role it would seem as he would also play the creation of Dr. Frankenstein in Hammer’s The Horror of Frankenstein three years later – during which time he made appearances in the likes of The Beverly Hillbillies, The Saint, and The Ace of Wands. While Prowse wasn’t able to work with the legendary Peter Cushing in the 1970 Hammer Frankenstein film – after appearing in A Clockwork Orange, Doctor Who, as well as The Tomorrow People – he got his chance with 1974’s Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. Reuniting three years later on the set of Star Wars: A New Hope – where Cushing portrayed Grand Moff Tarkin.
Interestingly enough one of the roles that the late and great David Prowse was most proud of was as “The Green Cross Man” – the superhero created to inform British children of road safety. A role in a series of public service announcements that would help earn Prowse the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire back in 2000. Although as you will hear for yourself in this 1980 interview on the Saturday Night at the Mill talk show – the role of Darth Vader almost cost him his job as The Green Cross Man. You will notice that during the interview music begins to play while Prowse is speaking – this is because the The Musicians Union was on strike at the time and was attempting to ‘disrupt’ the BBC program.
David Prowse not only acted as the personal trainer to the equally late and great Christopher Reeve for 1978’s Superman: The Movie but he would appear in the Darth Vader suit once again for the 1996 release of Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game. A VHS board game title that not only also featured the voice work of James Earl Jones but the return of cinematographer Gilbert Taylor – on an original set from Star Wars a mere 20 years later after the first film.
It feels as if we have written far, far too many of these Rest in Peace articles in 2020 – although it must be done to honor the memory of so many of our favorite actors, directors, and video game legends. So, thank you David Prowse for all of your work over the years, we will dim the lights in the auditorium in your honor.