David Prowse: The One True Vader

Long flowing black capes, masks, latex tights and accessories, PVC and armor, all this and more are the classic fantasy villain’s wardrobe tropes. The ultimate sci-fi bad guy, certainly front and center of many a cosplay imaging, Darth Vader, was the perfect model for these wardrobe dreams. The man who played the best-known Sith Lord in the original trilogy, David Prowse, died last week at the age of 85.

A well-known bodybuilder and personal trainer in his home country of England, before his turn in George Lucas’ baby in 1977, Prowse had been in seen on British T.V., as the Frankenstein monster in Hammer Films, playing the ‘Green Cross Man’ for a famous U.K.’s road safety campaign (he was awarded at MBE for this) and for the silent, but well-known “Julian” in “A Clockwork Orange.” George Lucas had Prowse audition for both Vader and Chewbacca after seeing Prowse in Clockwork, offering the 6-foot/6-inch actor a choice of either role.

Prowse said he chose Vader because everyone remembers the villain.

Prowse’s British accent kept him from voicing Vader, though. As is well-known, Vader’s voice was overdubbed by a famous American actor, James Earl Jones.

Born in 1935, before his acting career Prowse took up bodybuilding pretty much full time. He competed in various Mr. Universe competitions, showing his strength by shredding phone books on stage. He won the British heavyweight lifting championship at the Commonwealth Games in 1962, 1963, and 1964. He later became an actor and a personal trainer to a good number of actors, even working with Christopher Reeve while Reeve prepared for ‘Superman.’

Prowse actually auditioned for the ‘Male Of Steel’ movie roll.

Prowse was married for 57 years to his wife, Norma Scammell. The couple had three children. And while more men than Prowse have played Vader, for most of us, Prowse will always be the man behind that iconic mask and cape.

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