We may have never actually heard his voice in a Star Wars movie, but his presence was unmistakable. David Prowse will forever be associated with the villain Darth Vader, a character he played in all three movies in the original trilogy.
Here are five little-known facts about the man whose physical presence helped to cement Darth Vader as one of the most memorable movie characters of all time.
1. He’s helped create memorable performances for movies he wasn’t even in
Prowse tried to get the title role in Warner Bros.’ 1978 movie Superman. When he was told that he wasn’t cast in the part, he was also asked to help prepare the actor who did get the part, Christopher Reeve. Calling upon his background as a bodybuilder and weightlifter, Prowse worked with Reeve to get the actor into Kryptonian shape for the movie. When Prowse died in 2020, Cary Elwes revealed that he had also been trained by David Prowse to prepare for his role of Wesley in The Princess Bride.
2. He’s played Frankenstein’s Monster three times
When you have the height and physique of someone like David Prowse, it’s no surprise that you will get cast to play Frankenstein’s Monster at some point in your career. Prowse however, has played the role three different times. The first time he played the role was his film debut in the 1967 movie Casino Royale, a James Bond spy parody that was surprisingly released before any of the other James Bond movies. He then played the role of the monster twice in the final two Frankenstein movies in the Hammer Horror series. Coincidently in the final movie in the series, Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, Frankenstein himself was portrayed by Peter Cushing who would later act alongside Prowse again a few years later when he would play Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope.
3. After Darth Vader, his second most famous role is a British superhero
You may have never heard of him, but those who grew up in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s probably know Prowse as Green Cross Man. Green Cross Man was a superhero invented to help promote road safety, particularly how to safely cross the street. Complete with the ability to teleport and a robot sidekick, Green Cross Man would always be on the lookout for children who needed to follow the Green Cross Code to get across the street safely. Coincidently, just like his performance for Darth Vader, Prowse was dubbed for the first two commercials featuring Green Cross Man, but eventually, Prowse’s own voice could be heard in later commercials. The Green Cross Man commercials ran from 1975 to 1990 and were a big success in the UK. In 2000, Prowse was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his work as Green Cross Man.
4. He reprised the role of Darth Vader in 1996
Prowse famously played the role of Darth Vader three times in three different Star Wars movies throughout the 1970s and 1980s. However, almost 20 years after the release of the first Star Wars movie, Prowse reprised the role of Darth Vader once again, this time for a board game. Assault of the Death Star is an interactive video board game. This board game came with a VHS tape that was meant to be watched while you were playing the board game. Events on the tape would affect what happened on the board. For this game, Prowse once again pulled on the Darth Vader armor to film new footage for the VHS tape, some of it filmed on an original Star Wars set. James Earl Jones also returned to voice Vader for the board game. To date, this the only footage of Darth Vader that was only ever officially released on a VHS.
5. He accidentally spoiled The Empire Strikes Back years before it was released
In 1978, just a year after the first Star Wars movie was released, Prowse was giving a speech at the University of California. In that speech, he talked about the future of Star Wars and he mentioned a few different plot points for future Star Wars movies, including the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. This was a pretty big spoiler, given that at the time the script for The Empire Strikes Back was still being written, and Prowse himself was never told the twist, with alternate lines being used on set for the filming of that iconic scene. The speech was covered in a newspaper article at the time and was discovered years later with the article reporting on the now-famous spoiler. Prowse was asked about it in 2015, but he claimed to have no memory of knowing about Luke’s parentage ahead of time, much less telling a room full of people. The spoiler was probably just the result of a good guess.
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