There have been several actors who have played Darth Vader over the years — James Earl Jones provided the voice, Hayden Christensen slipped into the Vader suit in Revenge of the Sith, and stuntman Bob Anderson dueled Mark Hamill on Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. But, the most imposing and visual Darth Vader of them all was without a doubt, David Prowse. Over the 2020 Thanksgiving weekend, Prowse died at the age of 85. For most, he was famous not for his face, but his body — the body of Darth Vader.
But, unlike fellow body man, Peter Mayhew, who returned to play Chewbacca one last time in The Force Awakens in 2015, David Prowse hasn’t publicly been associated with Star Wars since the late ’80s. If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen Prowse at Disney or Lucasfilm sponsored nostalgia tours — like Star Wars Celebration — there’s a very good reason. The bodybuilder and actor had a pretty big falling out with George Lucas while making the classic Star Wars films.
There’s a lot of dirty Vader laundry over the years, but the biggest issues seem connected with the fact that Prowse spoiled some aspects of both Empire and Return of the Jedi in press interviews before the films’ releases. It’s also been widely documented that he felt slighted by having his voice replaced by James Earl Jones. But, in truth, once you dig into old books and magazines, that’s just the tip of a Death Star-sized iceberg.
In 2015, filmmakers Toni Bestard and Marcos Cabotá released a documentary about David Prowse called I Am Your Father. If you’re interested in knowing the full story of Prowse and his complicated relationship with Star Wars, this documentary is great. However, it is a little hard to track down. In the US, there are zero streaming options at the moment for I Am Your Father, which is a real shame. That said, if you want to get industrious, you can buy a Blu-ray on eBay, just make sure you have the right kind of player!
If you can’t get ahold of I Am Your Father, and you want to watch something right now, there’s another David Prowse documentary — produced by Devfire — called The Force’s Mouth. This one is a little more informal (and shorter), but it exists, mostly, in its entirety on YouTube. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty of the feud between Lucas and Prowse over the recording of Vader’s voice, this is the one to watch.
Here’s the relevant clip:
Overall, David Prowse’s impact on Star Wars was a lot like Darth Vader: He remains beloved and his legacy is decidedly mixed. These documentaries, however, give a human side to the man inside that famous mask.