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The original Vader, David Prowse, breathes again…

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This article was first published in Empire Magazine Issue #192 (June 2005).

As part of our Star Wars coverage when Revenge Of The Sith hit cinemas in 2005, we spoke to many of the series' original cast and crew. One key, and towering, figure was David Prowse, the Englishman who played Darth Vader. Hidden by a mask and dubbed by James Earl Jones, he may not have seen the stardom that stuck to his castmates, but he remains an essential part of the appeal of the ultimate bad guy. Here he talks us through his experience...

Star Wars Archive: 'Rise.... Darth Farmer'

When you were shooting Star Wars, did you sense the film was going to be so big?
No. You knew you were in a major movie, with the big sets and actors such as Sir Alec Guinness. But we really had no idea of what was going on. I thought it would come out and die a death and that would be it.

Who did you enjoy working with?
I enjoyed working with Alec Guinness - it was a great privilege. On Star Wars I was renewing an association with Carrie Fisher, as I had worked with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, in 1974 at the London Palladium. Carrie came along to sing a song. She was lovely, really nice. I see her now at the conventions, and it's all hugs and kisses. She signed a picture for me not so long ago, "To my real daddy."

What do you think you brought to the role of Vader?
I had years and years of being a bodybuilder, where you have to pose and display your physique. You learn how to use your body, and I think that came over in the Darth Vader role, with the movements and the hand gestures.

Star Wars Archive: 'Rise.... Darth Farmer'
Clockwise from top left: Prowse rehearses with Sir Alec Guinness; Prowse with DP Gilbert Taylor; shooting on the Death Star; helmet-free during an on-set rehearsal

When did you find out your voice was dubbed?
When the film came out in America, I got a cable from Russ Meyer, saying: "Congratulations, you're in the biggest film of all time. By the way, did you know they've overdubbed your voice?" There were all sorts of stories about why they did it, mostly my accent: Harrison Ford even nicknamed me Darth Farmer. But about 20 years later I got a letter explaining that it was because there were too many English accents in there already, and they wanted the film to feel more American.

What effect did playing Darth Vader have on your career?
Well, as far as work is concerned, none whatsoever. At the same time I got Star Wars, I also became the Green Cross Code Man. Those commercials came out over the Christmas of 1976. The film came out in America in 1977, and then all the publicity came over here, and the next thing I knew was the Department Of Transport was going to sack me, as they thought the evil Darth Vader would affect my goodie-goodie GCC image. In the end the reverse was true: the kids paid more attention to me because I was Darth Vader.

Did you have anything to do with the recent films?
I was very disappointed that they didn't ask me to reprise my Vader in the final film. They didn't even discuss it with me.

What do you do these days?
The Star Wars convention scene has become so big that now I do nothing else - I travel round the world on someone else's expense.

This article was first published in Empire Magazine Issue #192 (June 2005). Interview by Steve O'Hagan

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