TOPCON POP EXPO MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO
“David brought a physicality to Darth Vader that was essential for the character. He made Vader leap off the page and on to the big screen, with an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader’s presence. David was up for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable, tragic figure.” -George Lucas-
David Prowse July 1, 1935 – November 28, 2020
David Prowse was more than just the body of Darth Vader. He was more than just a body builder who beefed up Christopher Reeve for his role as Superman. David Prowse was more than just a giant actor who played Frankenstein’s Monster 3 times, He was more than just the Green Cross Man who was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to charity and to road safety in the 2000 New Year Honors. Yes David Prowse was all these things but so much more.
Born in Bristol, England the towering 6′ 6″ Prowse developed an interest in Body Building early on in life. Prowse won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship in 1962 and the following two years. In the United Kingdom, Prowse was well known as the Green Cross Man, a superhero invented to promote a road safety campaign for children in 1975. It was for this role that David Prowse was awarded the MBE. But even before becoming the Green Cross Man Prowse was already on his way to a prolific film career.
He had a role as Frank Alexander’s bodyguard, Julian, in the film A Clockwork Orange (1971), in which he was noticed by the future Star Wars director George Lucas. He played a circus strongman in Vampire Circus (1972), a Minotaur in the Doctor Who serial The Time Monster (also 1972), and an android named Coppin in The Tomorrow People in 1973. He appeared in an episode of Space: 1999, “The Beta Cloud” (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) and was supposed to play Minoton in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), but the part went to Peter Mayhew instead, who later played Chewbacca in Star Wars.
Prowse claimed that he nearly got the role of Jaws in James Bond (which ultimately went to Richard Kiel) and was offered the part of Conan the Barbarian before Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Prowse 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 (1974), a feature film version of the TV series. 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 in three films, Casino Royale and the Hammer horrors 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 “Scuttlevision” 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.
Among his many non-speaking roles, Prowse played a major 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.
But it was his role as Darth Vader in Star Wars; A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi for which he will always be remembered. David Prowse embraced the role and never shied away from the fame it brought him. Prowse knew how much the character of Darth Vader meant to Star Wars fans and attended fan conventions for years to the delight of young and old alike.
Spencer Wilding, Darth Vader in Star Wars: Rogue One, credits David Prowse for being his life inspiration. Though Wilding stands an inch taller than Prowse it was the larger than life figure that David Prowse created that caused Wilding to say, “He is the biggest man I know.”
Yes, David Prowse was a big man both in stature and in heart. The foot print that he left on the world and our hearts will long endure. He has joined the Force along with Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing.
RIP Mr. Prowse, Your Legend Lives On.