Steve Kell

Real Darth Vader David Prowse tells us what it is like to be the villain in the black costume

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I have always wondered what it is like to play the most iconic movie villain of all time, so I was surprised when I turned up at Comic Con, in Newcastle, to learn that the deadly Sith Lord was in fact a bodybuilder from Bristol.


Picture: David Prowse 2013, by Xanathon.

Hayden Christensen may have played a younger Vader, and James Earl Jones may have provided the voice, but the original Darth Vader was the 79-year-old David Prowse.

Despite featuring in some of the franchise’s most iconic scenes, playing Lord Vader was not quite glamorous, he says.

“At almost every convention I attend, the question people ask the most is ‘what was it like playing Darth Vader?’

“Everyone thinks I am going to say it was amazing, which it was, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story.

“Of course, it provided me with a great career, and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but the truth is the costume was an absolute nightmare.

“The design was genius, but I was sweating like a pig and, eventually, the condensation meant that I was blind most of the time. Having said that, I’d do it all again,” said Mr Prowse.

Standing at 6’6” and built like a tank, Prowse’s destiny to play Star Wars’ big bad villain could not be more obvious, so it may come as a surprise to learn that he was offered another role on the opposite side of the force.

“Before my audition, I hadn’t heard about Star Wars. Penny Harrison, who was my agent at the time, told me that George Lucas wanted to see me.

“He offered me two roles, the first was Chewbacca and the other was Darth Vader – no disrespect to Chewbacca but I’m sure I made the right choice!”

It has been well documented that Mr Prowse had a fall out with Star Wars founder George Lucas.

However, the man behind the mask reflects fondly on his days on set.

He said: “The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite of the trilogy. We had a great director and great cast.

“My only regret is that I never got the chance to go out on location and spent most of my time in the death star in the studio.

“Nobody could have predicted how well-received the trilogy would be.

“I still argue that Return Of The Jedi should have been better, and it’s shame that the worst of the trilogy was the last, in my opinion.

“A New Hope stands out because everything had to go perfectly. I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you and all of these fans today if it never hadn’t.

“People think that because I was inside the costume I didn’t have to learn the lines, but, in fact, I acted out all of Darth Vader’s scenes.

“I got to work with some great people.

“Again, I never got to go out on location, they visited some wonderful places, but all of my scenes were shot in a studio.”

After playing a starring role in the original saga, Darth Vader did not feature until the latter stages of the prequel trilogy, with Lucas choosing to focus on Anakin Skywalker’s transformation to the dark side.

The prequel received fairly negative reviews from critics and Prowse agrees that mistakes were made.

“I’m not a fan of the previous trilogy. It’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria and anticipation of a film but, looking back at the movies we created, there is no comparison.

“Hopefully they won’t make the same mistakes this time,” Mr Prowse added.

With fans eagerly awaiting the arrival of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens later this year, Prowse would loved to have been a part of the next instalment.

However, health problems have prevented any chance of a return to the franchise.

“Of course, I would love to have been a part of it.

“They haven’t asked me, but I had an operation on my knee that meant I’m not able to walk without using crutches.

“I’ve never had a serious fall. I fall over a lot, but I have brilliant people who care for me and it hasn’t had a huge effect on my life.

“I also have a small problem with my memory, which isn’t ideal for an actor, but that happens to everyone as they get older.

“It’s mostly small things. It would be pointless attending these conventions, if I had lost my memory!

“I love what I am doing now, which is meeting fans all over the world at conventions.”

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