David Prowse, MBE (born 1 July 1935) is an English bodybuilder,[1] weightlifter and actor. He played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, though the character's voice was provided by James Earl Jones. He also played the Green Cross Code man, a character used in British road safety advertising.[2][3]


Darth Vader

Prowse played the physical form of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.[4] James Earl Jones, however, provided the voice for the character. Prowse spoke the dialogue during the making of the films,[5] and did not actually know Vader was Luke's father until he saw The Empire Strikes Back in the cinema (which he considers to be his favourite of the trilogy).[6] Although he was never going to be used as the voice of Darth Vader, Prowse claims he was originally told that he would be seen and heard at the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader's mask was removed. Instead, actor Sebastian Shaw was used. Lucas claims he wanted a "darker voice"—that is, a deeper, more reverberating voice—and never intended to use Prowse's voice, which had a West Country accent. In the 2004 documentary Empire of Dreams, actress Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia Organa in the original trilogy films, quipped that they nicknamed Prowse "Darth Farmer" because of his unintimidating West Country accent. In the lightsaber battle scenes between Vader and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Prowse, who was not a skilled swordsman, was doubled by the scene's fight-choreographer, the stuntman and fencing coach Bob Anderson (who also taught the sword fighters in The Princess Bride and Lord of the Rings).


Prowse reprised his role of Darth Vader for the video games Monopoly Star Wars and Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game.

Prowse continues to associate himself with his role in the Star Wars films and is involved in the convention circuit. Despite this, he has not been included in recent reunions of the original cast, such as those for the Empire of Dreams documentary and the 2005 Vanity Fair cover. While being interviewed by Kevin Moore of The Moore Show Prime Time, he admitted his dislike for the prequel trilogy and opined that the new films were "out of context in terms of special effects in comparison to the original trilogy".

In July 2007, Prowse joined many others from the Star Wars films for the first ever Star Wars Celebration event held outside the United States. It was run by Lucasfilm Ltd. and the Cards Inc. Group, at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London.[7][8] The occasion was to mark the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.

Recently he played a small cameo role in Star Wars fanfilms "Order of the Sith: Vengeance" and its sequel "Downfall" – Order of the Sith[9] – alongside Jeremy Bulloch and Michael Sheard. These fanfilms were made in Britain in support of the charity Save the Children.

In 2008, he was one of the cast members featured on Justin Lee Collins's Bring Back...Star Wars. In the film, Prowse commented that he had a dispute with George Lucas after he allegedly leaked reports of Darth Vader's death to the press. Subsequently the appearance of Darth Vader was to be played by Sebastian Shaw and not Prowse.

Prowse claims his contract for Return of the Jedi included a share of profits on the film, and although it grossed $475 million on a $32 million budget, Prowse explained in an interview in 2009 that he has never received residuals for his performance.[10] Due to "Hollywood accounting", the actual profits are sent as "distribution fees" to the studio, leaving nothing to distribute to others.[11]

In July 2010, Prowse was banned by George Lucas from attending official Star Wars fan conventions.[12][13][14] Lucas has reportedly given Prowse no reason, other than stating that Prowse "burnt too many bridges" between Lucasfilm and himself.

Since 2002 Prowse has been the Honorary Leader of the 501st Legion, a fan group dedicated to Star Wars costuming.[citation needed]

Other roles

File:Dave Prowse Champions.JPG

Within the United Kingdom, Prowse is also well known as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero invented to promote a British road safety campaign for children in 1975. As a result of his association with the campaign, which ran between 1971 and 1990, he received the MBE in 2000.[15]

He had a role as F. Alexander's bodyguard Julian in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, in which he was noticed by the future Star Wars director George Lucas.[16] He played a circus strongman in 1972's Vampire Circus, a Minotaur in the 1972 Doctor Who serial The Time Monster, and an android named Copper in The Tomorrow People in 1973. He appeared in an episode of Space: 1999, The Beta Cloud in 1976 right before he was cast as Darth Vader. Around that time, he appeared as the Black Knight in the Terry Gilliam film Jabberwocky (1977).

He had a small role as Hotblack Desiato's bodyguard in the 1981 BBC TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He appeared in the first series of Ace of Wands on LWT and as a bodyguard in Callan. He played Charles, the duke's wrestler, in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of As You Like It in 1978.

Prowse played Frankenstein's monster twice, in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.

Prowse made two uncredited appearances on The Benny Hill Show. On Hill's first show for Thames Television in 1969, he played a briefs-clad muscleman in the "Ye Olde Wishing Well" quickie, and in 1984 he showed off his muscles in a sketch set to the song "Stupid Cupid". The earlier routine was also featured in the 1974 film The Best of Benny Hill, in which he was credited.

Amongst his many non-speaking roles, Prowse played a major speaking role in "Portrait of Brenda", the penultimate episode of The Saint broadcast in 1969.

In May 2010, he played Frank Bryan in The Kindness of Strangers, an independent British film produced by Queen Bee Films. The film screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Other activities

File:David Prowse.JPG

Prowse won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship in 1962 and the following two years.[16] He represented England in the weightlifting event at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia.

He helped train Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in the 1978 film and its sequels after lobbying for the part himself. In a television interview, he related how his response to being told "we've found our Superman" was "Thank you very much." Only then was he told that Reeve had been chosen for the role and he was to only be a trainer.[17] He trained Cary Elwes for his role as Westley in The Princess Bride.

In January 2009, Prowse began providing public relations for musician Jayce Lewis.

On 13 May 2009, Prowse publicly declared his support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the European Parliament election, 2009. Prowse said that "I've looked right and left and right again and the only party I can safely vote for is UKIP," and "And I have two messages for those considering how to vote. Firstly, stop, look and listen to what is being said. Only UKIP is actually telling us the truth about the European Union and why we need to leave it. Secondly, may June the fourth be with you."

Personal life

File:David Prowse at Mountain-Con III in 2007.png
Prowse was brought up on the Southmead housing estate in Bristol, winning a scholarship to Bristol Grammar School. Prowse attended Bristol Grammar School. In his teens, Prowse was 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm) tall, and developed an interest in bodybuilding. His early jobs included a bouncer at a dance hall, where he met his future wife, and a lifeguard at Henleaze Swimming Pool. Following his successes from 1961 in the British heavyweight weightlifting championship, he left Bristol in 1963 to work for a London weightlifting company.[16]

In 1999, it was rumoured that thieves broke into Prowse's home and stole the lightsaber he used in the Star Wars trilogy and several of his other possessions.[18] However, after a discussion with Prowse on 4 May 2007, he said that the "lightsaber" was actually a toy and not an original prop. He explained that the story printed about the break-in concentrated on the supposed "lightsaber" and not on the jewellery and other valuables taken. He further said that he was never given any of the props from the Star Wars films.

Prowse has been married since 1963 and is the father of three children.[19] He is a prominent supporter of Bristol Rugby Club.

Health problems

Prowse has suffered from arthritis for much of his life. That has led to replacements of both hips and his ankle being fused, as well as several revisionary surgeries on his hip replacements.[20] Prowse's arthritic symptoms first appeared at age 13, but seemingly disappeared when he took up competitive weightlifting. However, they reappeared in 1990.[20]

In 2001, Prowse's left arm became paralysed, followed by his right. He was diagnosed with septic arthritis caused by an infection he attributes to an allergy to some of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs he was prescribed, which nearly killed him. The amount of surgery he has had has also drastically reduced his height. In his younger days he stood 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm).

Today, Prowse works with various arthritis organisations in Britain and is vice-president of the Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied Association.

In March 2009, Prowse revealed that he is suffering from prostate cancer and has undergone radiation therapy since the beginning of 2009 at the Royal Marsden Hospital in south London.[21] He discovered that he had the cancer following his participation in a charity event in aid of a prostate cancer[22] charity, where a representative of the charity asked whether, as a man over 50, he had had a PSA test[19] The conversation stayed in his mind, and on a future visit to a general practitioner, he requested the blood test that eventually led to diagnosis.[19] As of 2009, he is in remission.[23]

In November 2014, Prowse revealed that he has dementia.[24]

Selected filmography


  2. The National Archives. The National Archives. Retrieved on 30 December 2010.
  3. Retrieved on 30 December 2010.
  4. New York Times. Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  5. David Prowse as Darth Vader on YouTube[dead link]
  6. Star Wars Archive: 'Rise.... Darth Farmer'. Empire Magazine (June 2005). Retrieved on 16 May 2014.
  7. Southport Reporter
  9. ', Order of the Sith', website. Retrieved on 30 December 2010.
  10. Times Online. Times. Retrieved on 12 September 2012.
  11. How Hollywood Accounting Can Make a $450 Million Movie "Unprofitable". The Atlantic. Retrieved on 12 September 2012.
  12. Sky TV. Retrieved on 30 December 2010.
  13. The Force. The Force. Retrieved on 30 December 2010.
  14. Lefort, Rebecca (17 July 2010). "Darth Vader actor David Prowse banned for annoying director George Lucas". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  15. BBC NEWS - UK - Magazine - The Green force. Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Darth Vader returns to Bristol home where he grew up". Bristol Evening Post. 16 November 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  17. Movie Reviews (Christopher Reeve Homepage). Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Briggs, Helen (22 June 2009). "Darth Vader star on cancer". BBC News. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 - Darth Vader battles 'dark side' of arthritis. Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  21. Darth Vader actor battles prostate cancer. Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  22. Darth Vader actor in hospital. Mail Online. Retrieved on 24 November 2014.
  23. vader star david clear of cancer. Daily Mirror. Retrieved on 30 December 2010.
  24. Star Wars' Darth Vader: I'd have loved a part in the new film but I'd forget my lines. Daily Mirror. Retrieved on 29 November 2014.

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