David Prowse

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This article is about the actor. For the politician, see David Prowse (politician).
David Prowse
David Prowse at Mountain-Con III in 2007.png
David Prowse at Mountain-Con in 2007
Born (1935-07-01) 1 July 1935 (age 79)
Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Alma mater Bristol Grammar School
Years active 1967–present
Spouse(s) Norma Prowse (m. 1963)
Website
http://www.darthvader-starwars.com/

David Prowse, MBE (born 1 July 1935) is an English bodybuilder,[1] weightlifter and actor, most widely known for playing the role of Darth Vader (though James Earl Jones voiced the character). In Britain, he is also remembered as having played the Green Cross Code man.[2][3] Prowse is a native of Bristol, where he attended Bristol Grammar School.

Career[edit]

Darth Vader[edit]

Prowse is best known for playing the physical form of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.[4] James Earl Jones, however, provided the voice for the character. Prowse spoke the dialogue during the making of the films,[5] and didn't actually know Vader was Luke's father until he saw The Empire Strikes Back in the cinema (which he considers to be his favourite of the trilogy).[6] Although he was never going to be used as the voice of Darth Vader, Prowse claims he was originally told that he would be seen and heard at the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader's mask was removed. Instead, actor Sebastian Shaw was used. Lucas claims he wanted a 'darker voice' -- that is, a deeper, more reverberating voice -- and never intended to use Prowse's voice, which had a West Country accent. In the 2004 documentary Empire of Dreams, actress Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia Organa in the original trilogy films, quipped that they nicknamed Prowse "Darth Farmer" because of his un-intimidating West Country accent. In the lightsaber battle scenes between Vader and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Prowse, who was not a skilled swordsman, was doubled by the scene's fight-choreographer, the stuntman and fencing coach Bob Anderson (who also taught the sword fighters in The Princess Bride and Lord of the Rings).

Darth Vader (Prowse) makes his first entrance in Star Wars

Prowse reprised his role of Darth Vader for the video games Monopoly Star Wars and Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game.

Prowse continues to associate himself with his role in the Star Wars films and is involved in the convention circuit. Despite this, he has not been included in recent reunions of the original cast, such as those for the Empire of Dreams documentary and the 2005 Vanity Fair cover. While being interviewed by Kevin Moore of The Moore Show Prime Time, he admitted his dislike for the prequel trilogy and opined that the new films were "out of context in terms of special effects in comparison to the original trilogy".

In July 2007, Prowse joined many others from the Star Wars films for the first ever Star Wars Celebration event held outside the United States. It was run by Lucasfilm Ltd. and the Cards Inc. Group, at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London.[7] The occasion was to mark the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.

Recently he played a small cameo role in Star Wars fanfilms "Order of the Sith: Vengeance" and its sequel "Downfall" – Order of the Sith[8] – alongside Jeremy Bulloch and Michael Sheard. These fanfilms were made in Britain in support of the charity Save the Children.

In 2008, he was one of the cast members featured on Justin Lee Collins's Bring Back...Star Wars. In the film, Prowse commented that he had a dispute with George Lucas after he allegedly leaked reports of Darth Vader's death to the press. Subsequently the appearance of Darth Vader was to be played by Sebastian Shaw and not Prowse.

Prowse claims his contract for Return of the Jedi included a share of profits on the film, and although it grossed $475 million on a $32 million budget, Prowse explained in an interview in 2009 that he has never received residuals for his performance.[9] Due to "Hollywood accounting", the actual profits are sent as "distribution fees" to the studio, leaving nothing to distribute to others.[10]

In July 2010, Prowse was banned from attending official Star Wars fan conventions by George Lucas.[11][12][13] Lucas has given Prowse no reason, other than stating that Prowse "burnt too many bridges" between Lucasfilm and himself.

Since 2002 Prowse has been the Honorary Leader of the 501st Legion, a fan group dedicated to Star Wars costuming.[citation needed]

Other roles[edit]

David Prowse in a role from an episode of the 1968 TV series The Champions.

Within the United Kingdom, Prowse is also well known as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero invented to promote a British road safety campaign for children in 1975. As a result of his association with the campaign, which ran between 1971 and 1990, he received the MBE in 2000.[14]

He had a role as F. Alexander's bodyguard Julian in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, in which he was noticed by the future Star Wars director George Lucas.[15] He played a circus strongman in 1972's Vampire Circus, a Minotaur in the 1972 Doctor Who serial The Time Monster, and an android named Copper in The Tomorrow People in 1973. He also appeared in an episode of Space: 1999, The Beta Cloud in 1976 right before he was cast as Darth Vader. Around that time, he also appeared as the Black Knight in the Terry Gilliam film Jabberwocky (1977).

He had a small role as Hotblack Desiato's bodyguard in the 1981 BBC TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He also appeared in the first series of Ace of Wands on LWT and as a bodyguard in Callan. He played Charles, the duke's wrestler, in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of As You Like It in 1978.

Prowse played Frankenstein's monster twice, in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.

Prowse also made two uncredited appearances on The Benny Hill Show. On Hill's first show for Thames Television in 1969, he played a briefs-clad muscleman in the "Ye Olde Wishing Well" quickie, and in 1984 he showed off his muscles in a sketch set to the song "Stupid Cupid." The earlier routine was also featured in the 1974 film The Best of Benny Hill, in which he was credited.

Amongst his many non-speaking roles, Prowse played a major speaking role in "Portrait of Brenda", the penultimate episode of The Saint broadcast in 1969.

In May 2010, he played Frank Bryan in The Kindness of Strangers, an independent British film produced by Queen Bee Films. The film screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Other activities[edit]

Prowse in 2007

Prowse won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship in 1962 and the following two years.[15] He represented England in the weightlifting event at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia.

He helped train Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in the 1978 film and its sequels after lobbying for the part himself. In a television interview, he related how his response to being told "we've found our Superman" was "Thank you very much." Only then was he told that Reeve had been chosen for the role and he was to only be a trainer.[16] He also trained Cary Elwes for his role as Westley in The Princess Bride.

In January 2009, Prowse teamed up with respected musician Jayce Lewis after the pair managing his band. Jayce Lewis signed a five-year deal with industry giant EMI Records. Later, Prowse and Lewis formed an association with Dave being his sole contact for PR – an alliance that has proven very successful.[17]

On 13 May 2009, Prowse publicly declared his support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the European Parliament election, 2009. Prowse said that "I've looked right and left and right again and the only party I can safely vote for is UKIP," and "And I have two messages for those considering how to vote. Firstly, stop, look and listen to what is being said. Only UKIP is actually telling us the truth about the European Union and why we need to leave it. Secondly, may June the fourth be with you."

Personal life[edit]

David Prowse (2013)

Prowse was brought up on the Southmead housing estate in Bristol, winning a scholarship to Bristol Grammar School. In his teens, Prowse was 6 ft 5ins tall, and developed an interest in bodybuilding. His early jobs included a bouncer at a dance hall, where he met his future wife, and a lifeguard at Henleaze Swimming Pool. Following his successes in the British heavyweight weightlifting championship from 1961, in 1963 he left Bristol to work for a London weightlifting company.[15]

In 1999, it was rumoured that thieves broke into Prowse's home and stole the lightsaber he used in the Star Wars trilogy and several of his other possessions.[18] However, after a discussion with Prowse on 4 May 2007, he said that the "lightsaber" was actually a toy and not an original prop. He explained that the story printed about the break-in concentrated on the supposed "lightsaber" and not on the jewellery and other valuables taken. He further said that he was never given any of the props from the Star Wars films.

Prowse has been married since 1963 and is the father of three children.[19] He is a prominent supporter of Bristol Rugby Club.

Health problems[edit]

Prowse has suffered from arthritis for much of his life. That has led to replacements of both hips and his ankle being fused, as well as several revisionary surgeries on his hip replacements.[20] Prowse's arthritic symptoms first appeared at age 13, but seemingly disappeared when he took up competitive weightlifting. However, they reappeared in 1990.[20]

In 2001, Prowse's left arm became paralysed, followed by his right. He was diagnosed with septic arthritis caused by an infection he attributes to an allergy to some of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs he was prescribed, which nearly killed him. The amount of surgery he has had has also drastically reduced his height. In his younger days he stood 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm).

Today, Prowse works with various arthritis organisations in Britain and is vice-president of the Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied Association.

In March 2009, Prowse revealed that he is suffering from prostate cancer and has undergone radiation therapy since the beginning of 2009 at the Royal Marsden Hospital in south London.[21] He discovered that he had the cancer following his participation in a charity event in aid of a prostate cancer[22] charity, where a representative of the charity asked whether, as a man over 50, he had had a PSA test[19] The conversation stayed in his mind, and on a future visit to a GP, he requested the blood test that eventually led to diagnosis.[19] As of 2009 he is in remission.[23]

Selected filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Times Online
  2. ^ "The National Archives". The National Archives. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "Jonathan.thompson.co.uk". Jonathan.thompson.co.uk. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  4. ^ New York Times
  5. ^ David Prowse as Darth Vader[dead link]
  6. ^ "Star Wars Archive: 'Rise.... Darth Farmer'". Empire Magazine. June 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Southport Reporter and seatwave.com
  8. ^ "', Order of the Sith', website". Orderofthesith.net. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  9. ^ "Times Online". Times. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "How Hollywood Accounting Can Make a $450 Million Movie "Unprofitable"". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  11. ^ "Sky TV". Movies.sky.com. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Force". The Force. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  13. ^ Lefort, Rebecca (17 July 2010). "Darth Vader actor David Prowse banned for annoying director George Lucas". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  14. ^ Video of the Green Cross Code from the BBC
  15. ^ a b c "Darth Vader returns to Bristol home where he grew up". Bristol Evening Post. 16 November 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  16. ^ Superman page from the Christopher Reeve Homepage
  17. ^ Darthvader-starwars.com from the Dave Prowse Homepage
  18. ^ Thieves Steal Darth Vader's Lightsaber from Space.com
  19. ^ a b c Briggs, Helen (22 June 2009). "Darth Vader star on cancer". BBC News. 
  20. ^ a b Darth Vader battles 'dark side' of arthritis from USA Today
  21. ^ Darth Vader actor battles prostate cancer, CNN
  22. ^ Daily Mail
  23. ^ "vader star david clear of cancer". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 

External links[edit]