We recently received the unfortunate news that David Prowse passed away. For those Star Wars debutants, David Prowse is the man that wore the Darth Vader costume in the original trilogy. In honor of his passing let’s see how much you know about David Prowse. I’ve always had a huge appreciation for him and I’m very sad to hear about his passing. Perhaps this post will give you a greater appreciation too.
David Prowse was born in Bristol, England in 1935 and he was raised by a single mother. He found a passion for bodybuilding and weight training and he eventually won the British heavyweight weightlifting title. He became a “superhero” in the UK as the Green Cross Man, a character created by the British Road Safety Committee. The Green Cross Man is an aid to teach children general road safety. His role as the Green Cross Man ultimately earned him the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire).
From Superman to Star Wars
Since David was a real life “superhero” he is obviously qualified to train a superhero. His passion for fitness lead to a career in training actors for films, including Christopher Reeve (RIP) for his role as Superman (1978). One day he receives a call from his agent to talk to George Lucas about a role in his upcoming “space opera”. Lucas offered David the option of two roles; Chewbacca or Darth Vader. He chose Vader and is quoted as saying “I took the part of the villain because everyone remembers the villain”. Oh how right he was!
In the original trilogy, Darth Vader is portrayed by three people; James Earl Jones the voice, Sebastian Shaw as the face (in ROTJ) and David as the body. While he did not provide the voice for Darth Vader, he embraced the role and its impact on the fans. He was always loyal to Star Wars fans making frequent appearances in fan-films and conventions (until he was banned, boo on you George Lucas). He is actually an accomplished writer and often publishes books on health and fitness but he also wrote an autobiography entitled “Straight from the Force’s Mouth“.
David clearly has a penchant for playing the baddies. In addition to Darth Vader he has also portrayed Frankenstein’s monster on, at least, three separate films. He’s also been in A Clockwork Orange and several television appearances, including Doctor Who in 1972.
Despite the fact that he was in such excellent shape and spent his life promoting health and fitness, David Prowse had several health problems. He suffered from chronic arthritis that ultimately lead to his retirement from film and public appearances. In 2009 he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, from which he fully recovered. It was thought that he was beginning to suffer dementia (although he attributed the memory loss to old age). [EDIT]
His recent passing was simply the result of a short illness (and not covid related, from what I’ve been able to find). It was recently announced that he passed away as a result of complications from COVID-19.
Although we never saw his face as Vader, we appreciate David’s contribution in bringing to life one of cinema’s most iconic and fearsome villians. From the first moment he stepped through that blast door on the Tantive IV, Vader’s looming presence will never be forgotten. Thank you David Prowse and May the Force Be With You.
You don’t know the power of the dark side.