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- English bodybuilder, weightlifter, and actor (1935-2020)
Do you sense a disturbance in the Force? Maybe that’s because May 25 will be the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars’ release in theaters in 1977. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, we’ll be posting Star Wars stories all month, including choice vintage interviews, original videos, and some of our favorite pieces from years past. Just keep coming back here all month to see what’s happening in our galaxy.
James Earl Jones gave Darth Vader his voice, but the Star Wars villain owes his menacing walk and intimidating stature to David Prowse. The British actor and bodybuilder was offered the role mainly because of his 6’5″ height, and in fact, Prowse has said that he was offered the choice of playing Vader or Chewbacca. He immediately said he’d prefer to play the villain and was blindsided when Lucas re-dubbed his lines — and then again, when another actor (Sebastian Shaw), was hired to play the unmasked Vader in Return of the Jedi. But it really was Prowse under that helmet for the rest of the original trilogy. Here’s some B-roll footage (no sound) of Prowse being dressed in his Darth Vader costume and mask on the set of A New Hope at Elstree Studios in London.
It’s interesting to compare this to the fictional version of Anakin Skywalker’s suiting-up, which was shown at the end of the prequel Revenge of the Sith. (That one involves more robots.)
Prowse wasn’t given many opportunities for Star Wars publicity, and he ultimately had a falling-out with George Lucas. In Rogue One, the physical role of Darth Vader was played by two other actors, Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous. But if you’re curious what Darth Vader would have sounded like with the voice of the original actor, check out the interview below from 1980.
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