David Prowse is an English actor, weight-lifter and bodybuilder, best known for playing Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" trilogy.
He was born on July 1, 1935 in Bristol, England and raised at the Southmead Housing Estate in Bristol, winning a scholarship to Bristol Grammar School. In his teens, Prowse was 6-feet, 6-inches tall and developed an interest in bodybuilding. His early jobs included working as a bouncer at a dance hall, where he met his future wife, Norma Prowse. They later had three children. Prowse also worked as a lifeguard at Henleaze Swimming Pool. Prowse won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship in 1962, representing England in the weightlifting event at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia for two years. Following his successes, he left Bristol in 1963 to work for as a fitness consultant to Harrods, where he ripped up phone books under the stage name "Jack the Ripper." He also opened a series of gymnasiums, notably "The Dave Prowse Fitness Centre" in London.
Dave's popularity eventually parlayed him into an acting career and he played the Frankenstein Monster in the 1967 version of "Casino Royale" as well as the films, "The Horror of Frankenstein" and "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell." Through the Sixties, he starred on several British TV shows, as well as a 1968 episode of the American TV series, "The Beverly Hillbillies," filming episodes in England. He also made two uncredited appearances on "The Benny Hill Show," playing a muscleman in the 1969 "Ye Olde Wishing Well" sketch and again in the 1984 "Stupid Cupid" sketch. The earlier routine was featured in the 1974 film, "The Best of Benny Hill," which was released to theaters.
Between 1971 and 1990, Prowse became well known as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero invented to promote British road safety for children in 1975. As a result of his association with the campaign, he received the MBE in 2000. Continuing to act, his appearances included a role in "Vampire Circus," a Minotaur in the 1972 Doctor Who serial, "The Time Monster" and an android in "The Tomorrow People" in 1973. He also appeared in an episode of "Space: 1999" and as the Black Knight in the Terry Gilliam film "Jabberwocky" in 1977. He also appeared as F. Alexander's bodyguard, Julian, in "A Clockwork Orange," in 1971. The role attracted the attention of director George Lucas, who cast Prowse to play his most iconic character in his career, Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. Because of his West Country accent, his voice was re-dubbed by American actor, James Earl Jones, in post-production. Although Prowse was hurt by this change, he continued to play the role through the sequels, and although he was initially chosen to play Vader unmasked, Lucas chose actor Sebastian Shaw to supply a deeper, more reverberating voice. Additionally, Prowse was replaced in the light saber fight scenes with stuntman and fencing coach, Bob Anderson, because he broke the poles posing as the sabers. Nevertheless, Prowse re-prised the role of Darth Vader for the video games, "Monopoly: Star Wars" and "Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game."
Continuing to associate himself with his role in the Star Wars films, Prowse became involved in the convention circuit, but he has not been allowed to participate in recent reunions with 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."
Following his stint as Darth Vader, Prowse helped train both Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in the 1978 film and Cary Elwes for "The Princess Bride." He continued to act, starring in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of "As You Like It" in 1978 and in BBC TV adaptation of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in 1981 as well as his 1984 cameo on "The Benny Hill Show." In 1999, thieves broke into Prowse's home and stole several valuable and jewelry as well as a toy light saber he used in appearances, although the Press focused on the toy as being the prop he used in the movies. Since 2002, Prowse has been an Honorary Member and Honorary Leader of the 501st Legion, a fan group dedicated to Star Wars costuming. Prowse joined other actors from the trilogy in July 2007 for the first ever Star Wars Celebration event held outside the United States to mark the 30th anniversary of "Star Wars." It was run by Lucasfilm Ltd. and the Cards Inc. Group, at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London. He also had small cameo roles in the "Star Wars" fan-films, "Order of the Sith: Vengeance" and its sequel "Downfall," alongside Jeremy Bulloch and Michael Sheard. These fan films were made in Britain in support of the charity Save the Children. Since 2001, Prowse has suffered a number of health problems. His left arm became paralyzed, followed by his right, and he was diagnosed with septic arthritis caused by an infection which nearly killed him. The amount of surgery he has had has also drastically reduced his height of his younger days. He has also suffered from arthritis for much of his life, these symptons vanishing with his weight-lifting a returning after 1990, leading to replacements of both hips and his ankle being fused, as well as several revisionary surgeries on his hip replacements. Today, he works with various arthritis organizations in Britain and is vice-president of the Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied Association.
In March 2009, Prowse discovered that he had prostrate cancer following his participation in a charity event after a representative of the charity asked whether he had had a PSA test. He underwent radiation therapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital in South London, and his cancer has since gone into remission. Additionally, in November 2014, a Daily Mirror reporter wrongly claimed that Prowse had dementia, an accusation that Prowse himself denied, although he admitted instead he had problems with his memory, which he put down to age.
In January 2009, Prowse began providing public relations for musician Jayce Lewis, with whom he had become friends. On October 1, 2015 Lewis created "The Force's Mouth," a mini-documentary giving Prowse the chance to finally hear his voice as Darth Vader. On May 13, 2009, Prowse publicly declared his support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2009 European Parliament election. In May 2010, he played Frank Bryan in "The Kindness of Strangers," an independent British film produced by Queen Bee Films and screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.
In July 2010, Prowse was reportedly banned by George Lucas from attending official Star Wars fan conventions, based on accusations that Prowse had alledgedly leaked details from the "Star Wars" movies to the press while other sources reported that Prowse was just unable to keep up with the demanding scheduling. Prowse has also revealed that his contract for "Return of the Jedi" included a share of profits on the film and he was still owed residuals for his performance.