Star Wars villain Darth Vader might be more associated with the deep and menacing tones of his voice actor, James Earl Jones, but it takes more than a voice to make a character. Some fans have long celebrated the imposing body language and mannerisms brought to the character in the Original Trilogy by English actor and bodybuilder, David Prowse.
Prowse sadly passed on Nov. 28 at the age of 85. His death brought out a wave of remembrance from the fandom, with more people championing his often-overlooked contributions to the iconic series. Among those celebrating his life and work were his co-stars, who painted a picture of a man radically different once the foreboding black helmet came off.
Mark Hamill has spoken warmly of Prowse
Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill has had nothing but kind things to say about Prowse since his passing. Despite Luke and Vader’s fraught onscreen relationship, Hamill said in a recent Empire Magazine interview that it was “ironic” that the iconic villain was brought to life by someone so kind.
“I want Dave to be remembered for what a kind and genuine person he was,” Hamill said. “It seems so ironic that someone as ruthless, cold-hearted and evil as Darth Vader was portrayed by someone who was really a gentle giant. Dave was the opposite of everything Darth Vader was.”
Hamill also had strong words of praise for the sheer presence that Prowse brought to the character, which was evident from the first time the two met on set.
“The first time I met Dave was when he came on set in the full Darth Vader outfit,” the actor described. “I’d seen Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art, but to see it fully realised was stunning. A big part of that was just Dave’s size. He was a towering figure with this magnificent presence. Although we didn’t know it at the time, we were seeing the creation of one of the most iconic, enduring and feared villains of all time.”
Prowse had a long history beyond ‘Star Wars’
Prowse was active in the international bodybuilding scene throughout the 1960s. According to a BBC obituary, he befriended the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno during this time.
He made his acting debut with a small part in the notoriously hectic Casino Royale from 1967, a parody of the early James Bond films. Appropriately for a man of his stature, Prowse played Frankenstein’s Monster. (Don’t ask what the Monster was doing in that film, it’s barely coherent in the first place.)
Prowse was infamously on the outs with LucasFilm for many years over his perceived sidelining as Vader. It reportedly came as a surprise to the actor that his lines were redubbed by Jones in the first film. Later in the trilogy, he felt jilted again when another actor was cast to play the unmasked Vader in Return of the Jedi.
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