Sunday 29 November 2020

David Prowse, Star Wars' Darth Vader, dies

James Earl Jones was the unmistakable voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars but David Prowse embodied the towering armour-clad dark lord cinemagoers first saw board the battle-damaged Rebel Blockade Runner in A New Hope. Prowse's Bristolian accent wasn't menacing enough for a Sith Lord with a propensity to Force choke anyone who had a lack of faith in ancient religion.

Prowse passed away Saturday, aged 85. The sad news was posted on Twitter by the actor's management.

Mark Hamill, who played Darth Vader's son Luke Skywalker in the original and sequel trilogies, shared a tribute to Prowse on Twitter.

"So sad to hear David Prowse has passed," Hamill wrote. "He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader. Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him."

I met Prowse twice. Firstly when he visited my primary school, where I would suffer a life-changing head injury in October 1977, as the Green Cross Code Man and secondly years later at a special screening of the original Star Wars trilogy in the early nineties. He was warm and genial. Incidentally, the first time I saw Darth Vader, in person, was at my local Debenhams department store (now John Lewis) during the release of Return of the Jedi. Mum kept it a surprise and took me to the toy department where the lift opened to reveal the dark lord himself and Stormtroopers...

Prowse was banned from official Star Wars events in 2010 having allegedly fallen out with Star Wars creator George Lucas. In a newspaper article in 1978, he revealed, to cheering fans in California, Darth Vader was, in fact, Anakin Skywalker, Luke's father, two years before The Empire Strikes Back. This may have been a lucky guess. However, thank goodness social media wasn't a thing.

Discovering Prowse played Darth Vader, in the pages of Marvel's making of Star Wars magazine, is a cherished childhood memory. The actor also appeared in Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People and Space: 1999, which are available to stream on BritBox.

He will be long remembered.

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