I met David Prowse, the original Darth Vader, in 1978.
That’s not entirely true. My dad met him and got his autograph for me while five-year-old me was terrified of the Dark Lord of the Sith. Prowse signed it “Darth Vader”. In fact nobody knew it was actually David Prowse, the real Vader, until the next day when it was in the newspapers.
Sears announced, to coincide with the latest wave of Kenner action figures, that “Darth Vader” was coming to the store to meet the kids and sign autographs. (I got the brand new R5-D4 figure that night.) It was typical for people in Star Wars costumes to show up at stores and wave to kids. It was usually low budget. This was anything but, as Prowse wore the real costume and even spoke. If you’ve ever seen making-of footage, you know that Prowse spoke his lines on set before being overdubbed by James Earl Jones at the end of the process. Jones, in fact, was not even credited in 1977.
Prowse is the forgotten Vader. As a trained bodybuilder he was the right size to fill that towering suit. All he lacked was the voice, but Vader was so much more than the voice. He was also the body language and the sword fighting. The sudden, deliberate movements. The hacking and slashing that terrified Luke, and us as kids!
Prowse joins his friends Carrie Fischer, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing as he becomes one with the Force. The rest of the world watches A New Hope one more time. I think I’ll watch the original untampered cut as released on DVD. I really hope my parents kept that autograph.
May the Force be with David Prowse.