David Prowse

David Prowse MBE (born 1 July 1935) is a retired English bodybuilder,[1] weightlifter and character actor in British film and television. Worldwide, he is best known for physically portraying Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy (with the character's voice being performed by James Earl Jones), and in 2015 starred in a documentary concerning that role, entitled I Am Your Father. Prior to his role as Vader, Prowse had established himself as a prominent figure in British culture as the first Green Cross Code man, a character used in British road safety advertising aimed at children.[2][3][4]

David Prowse
David Prowse in 2013
Born (1935-07-01) 1 July 1935
Alma materBristol Grammar School
OccupationActor, body builder, weightlifter
Years active1950–2017
Norma E. Scammell (m. 1963)

Early life

Prowse was brought up on the Southmead housing estate in Bristol, winning a scholarship to Bristol Grammar School.[5] Prowse was tall, standing 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m), and developed an interest in bodybuilding. His early jobs included a bouncer at a dance hall, where he met his future wife, and a helper at Henleaze Swimming Pool. Following his successes from 1961 in the British heavyweight weightlifting championship, he left Bristol in 1963 to work for a London weightlifting company.[6]


Weightlifting and training

Prowse won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship in 1962 and the following two years.[6] He represented England in the weightlifting event at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia.

He helped train Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in the 1978 film and its sequels after lobbying for the part himself. In a television interview, he related how his response to being told "we've found our Superman" was "Thank you very much." Only then was he told that Reeve had been chosen for the role and he was to only be a trainer.[7] He trained Cary Elwes for his role as Westley in The Princess Bride.

Prowse also became fitness consultant to Harrods, ripped up phonebooks under the stage name 'Jack the Ripper', and opened a series of gymnasiums, notably 'The Dave Prowse Fitness Centre' in Southwark, London.


In the United Kingdom, Prowse is well known as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero invented to promote a British road safety campaign for children in 1975. As a result of his association with the campaign, which ran between 1971 and 1990, he received the MBE in 2000.[8]

He had a role as F. Alexander's bodyguard Julian in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, in which he was noticed by the future Star Wars director George Lucas.[6] He played a circus strongman in 1972's Vampire Circus, a Minotaur in the 1972 Doctor Who serial The Time Monster, and an android named Copper in The Tomorrow People in 1973. He appeared in an episode of Space: 1999, The Beta Cloud in 1976 right before he was cast as Darth Vader. Around that time, he appeared as the Black Knight in the Terry Gilliam film Jabberwocky (1977), and was supposed to play Minoton in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger—but the part went to Peter Mayhew.[9]

He had a small role as Hotblack Desiato's bodyguard in the 1981 BBC TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He appeared in the first series of Ace of Wands on LWT and as a bodyguard in the big screen version of Callan. He played Charles, the duke's wrestler, in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of As You Like It in 1978.

Prowse played Frankenstein's monster in three films, Casino Royale and the Hammer horrors The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.

Prowse made two uncredited appearances on The Benny Hill Show. On Hill's first show for Thames Television in 1969, he played a briefs-clad muscleman in the "Ye Olde Wishing Well" quickie, and in 1984 he showed off his muscles in a sketch set to the song "Stupid Cupid". The earlier routine was also featured in the 1974 film The Best of Benny Hill, in which he was credited.

Amongst his many non-speaking roles, Prowse played a major speaking role in "Portrait of Brenda", the penultimate episode of The Saint broadcast in 1969.

In May 2010, he played Frank Bryan in The Kindness of Strangers, an independent British film produced by Queen Bee Films. The film screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Star Wars

Prowse played the physical form of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.[10] Prowse spoke the dialogue during filming, but Lucas claimed he wanted a "darker voice"—a deeper, more reverberating voice, and had James Earl Jones provide the voice instead, deeming Prowse's West Country accent unsuitable for the character. Prowse claims he was originally told that he would be seen and heard at the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader's mask was removed. Instead, actor Sebastian Shaw was used. In the 2004 documentary Empire of Dreams, actress Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original trilogy films, quipped that they nicknamed Prowse "Darth Farmer" (a jibe regarding his urban Bristolian accent). In the lightsaber fight scenes between Vader and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Prowse, who wasn't a very skilled swordsman (he kept breaking the poles that stood in for the lightsabers), was replaced by the scene's fight choreographer, the stuntman and fencing coach Bob Anderson. Prowse felt sidelined by Anderson during the making of Return of the Jedi in particular, and claims that he was only able to persuade director Richard Marquand that he should be the one to throw the Emperor off the balcony after Marquand had tried and failed for a week to film the scene successfully without him.

Prowse reprised his role of Darth Vader for the video games Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game (1996) and Monopoly Star Wars (1997).

In 1999, it was rumoured that thieves broke into Prowse's home and stole the lightsaber he used in the Star Wars trilogy and several of his other possessions.[11] However, after a discussion with Prowse on 4 May 2007, he said that the "lightsaber" was actually a toy and not an original prop. He explained that the story printed about the break-in concentrated on the supposed "lightsaber" and not on the jewellery and other valuables taken. He further said that he was never given any of the props from the Star Wars films.

Since 2002 Prowse has been an honorary member and honorary leader of the 501st Legion, a fan group dedicated to Star Wars costuming.[12]

Prowse continues to associate himself with his role in the Star Wars films and is involved in the convention circuit. Despite this, he has not been included in recent reunions of 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 claimed that the new films were "out of context in terms of special effects in comparison to the original trilogy".

In July 2007, Prowse joined many others from the Star Wars films for the first ever Star Wars Celebration event held outside the United States. It was run by Lucasfilm Ltd. and the Cards Inc. Group, at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London.[13][14] The occasion was to mark the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.

Prowse played a cameo role in the Star Wars fan films "Order of the Sith: Vengeance" and its sequel "Downfall" – Order of the Sith,[15] alongside Jeremy Bulloch and Michael Sheard. These fan films were made in Britain in support of the charity Save the Children.

In 2008, he was one of the cast members featured on Justin Lee Collins's Bring Back...Star Wars. In the film, Prowse commented that he had a dispute with George Lucas after he allegedly leaked reports of Darth Vader's death to the press. Prowse had previously suggested that Darth Vader could be Luke Skywalker’s father in a speech he gave to UC Berkeley in 1978.[16] However, this was shortly after the release of Star Wars and nearly two years before The Empire Strikes Back (which he considers to be his favourite of the trilogy)[17] was released,[18][19] and the script had not even been written at the time. Gary Kurtz, the producer of The Empire Strikes Back, said in the 2015 documentary I Am Your Father that Prowse's apparent plot spoiler was simply "a good guess."

Prowse claims his contract for Return of the Jedi included a share of profits on the film, and although it grossed $475 million on a $32 million budget, Prowse explained in an interview in 2009 that he has never received residuals for his performance.[20] Due to "Hollywood accounting", the actual profits are sent as "distribution fees" to the studio, leaving nothing to distribute to others.[21]

In July 2010, Prowse was banned by George Lucas from attending official Star Wars fan conventions.[22][23] Lucas has reportedly given Prowse no reason, other than stating that Prowse "burnt too many bridges" between Lucasfilm and himself.

A 2015 Spanish documentary, by filmmaker Marcos Cabotá, entitled I Am Your Father, details Prowse's current life and his blackballing by LucasFilm, which the documentary suggests is unjustified. The leaks featured in the documentary originated from a technician working on the films.[24][25]

Notable associations and public relations

In January 2009, Prowse began providing public relations for musician Jayce Lewis. Notably, their close friendship years later developed into all aspects of business and management.[26][27]

On 1 October 2015, Lewis created a mini documentary titled The Force's Mouth, giving Prowse the chance to finally hear his voice as Darth Vader.[28][29][30][31][32][33]

Personal life

Prowse has been married since 1963 to Norma E. Scammell and is the father of three children.[34] He is a prominent supporter of Bristol Rugby Club.

On 13 May 2009, Prowse publicly declared his support for the United Kingdom Independence Party in the 2009 European Parliament election. Prowse said that "I've looked right and left and right again and the only party I can safely vote for is UKIP," and "...I have two messages for those considering how to vote. Firstly, stop, look and listen to what is being said. Only UKIP is actually telling us the truth about the European Union and why we need to leave it. Secondly, may June the fourth be with you."[35]

Health problems

Prowse has suffered from arthritis for much of his life. That has led to replacements of both hips and his ankle being fused, as well as several revisionary surgeries on his hip replacements.[36] Prowse's arthritic symptoms first appeared at age 13, but seemingly disappeared when he took up competitive weightlifting. However, they reappeared in 1990.[36]

In 2001, Prowse's left arm became paralysed, followed by his right. He was diagnosed with septic arthritis caused by an infection which nearly killed him. The amount of surgery he has had drastically reduced his height from the 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm) of his younger days.

Today, Prowse works with various arthritis organisations in Britain and is vice-president of the Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied Association.

In March 2009, Prowse revealed that he was suffering from prostate cancer and has undergone radiation therapy since the beginning of 2009 at the Royal Marsden Hospital in South London.[37] He discovered that he had the cancer following his participation in a charity event in aid of a prostate cancer charity, where a representative of the charity asked whether, as a man over 50, he had had a PSA test.[34] The conversation stayed in his mind, and on a future visit to a general practitioner, he requested the blood test that eventually led to diagnosis.[34] In 2009 he was still in remission.[38]

In November 2014, the Daily Mirror reported that Prowse had dementia.[39] However, Prowse himself denied this, admitting instead he had problems with his memory, which he put down to age.[40]


On October 2016 Prowse announced his retirement from all public appearances and events, later attributing the decision to ill health and wishes from his family.[41][42][43][44][45] A final onscreen appearance was later announced and filmed with Welsh musician and long-time friend Jayce Lewis in a sci-fi music video titled "Shields".[46][47]

Honours and awards

Prowse was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), for his services to charity and to Road Safety, in the 2000 New Year Honours.[48]


Year Title Role Notes
1967 Casino Royale Frankenstein's Creation Uncredited
1968 Hammerhead George
1970 The Horror of Frankenstein The Creation
1971 Up Pompeii Muscular Man Uncredited
Up the Chastity Belt Sir Grumbel
Carry On Henry Bearded torturer
A Clockwork Orange Julian
1972 Vampire Circus Strong man
1973 Black Snake Jonathan Walker
White Cargo Harry
1974 Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell Creation
Callan Arthur
1977 Star Wars Darth Vader Voiced by James Earl Jones
Jabberwocky Red Herring and Black Knights
The People That Time Forgot Executioner
1980 The Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader Voiced by James Earl Jones
1983 Return of the Jedi
2004 Saving Star Wars Dave Prowse
2005 Ravedactyl: Project Evolution Short film
2006 Perfect Woman
2010 The Kindness of Strangers Frank Bryan
2015 Elstree 1976 Himself
2015 I Am Your Father Himself
2015 The Force's Mouth Himself Documentary
2017 Jayce Lewis - "Shields" Himself (Retirement) Music Video


  1. ""Return of the Jedi" not Profitable?". The Times. 2002.
  2. "Green Cross Code Man back on screen". BBC. 24 March 2017.
  3. "The National Archives". The National Archives. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  4. "Jonathan.thompson.co.uk". Jonathan.thompson.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 October 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  5. "Where did these 11 Bristol celebrities go to school?",Bristol Post, 2 April 2017 (Accessed 4 April 2017)
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  7. "Movie Reviews (Christopher Reeve Homepage)". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  8. "BBC NEWS - UK - Magazine - The Green force". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
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  17. "Star Wars Archive: 'Rise.... Darth Farmer'". Empire. June 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  18. "Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker)". Chasing the Frog. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  19. "The Man Behind Darth Vader". Rockcellar Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 December 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  20. "Times Online". Times. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  21. "How Hollywood Accounting Can Make a $450 Million Movie "Unprofitable"". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
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  24. Sancha Rojo, María De (7 October 2016). "'I Am Your Father', el documental español que homenajea al ignorado actor de Darth Vader". El Huffington Post (in Spanish). Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  25. "Documentary on Darth Vader actor's documentary at Iffi 2016 - Times of India". The Times of India. 16 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  26. Bolter, Abby (31 January 2017). "Star Wars' Dave Prowse on his 'father-son' friendship with a Welsh musician".
  27. "Star Wars Dave Prowse stars inlast ever-production". 1 January 2017.
  28. Owens, David. "This is what Darth Vader would sound like if Dave Prowse actually voiced him". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
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  30. "The Force's Mouth (Featuring - Dave Prowse & Jayce Lewis)" on YouTube
  31. "Recording Dave Prowse - The Original Supervillain". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  32. "Darth Vader Manages Rock Band! | Dolphin Music". Dolphinmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  33. "Musician's surprise at Asia hit". BBC. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  34. Briggs, Helen (22 June 2009). "Darth Vader star on cancer". BBC News.
  35. http://www.bloggers4ukip.org.uk/2009/05/mike-nattrass-says-fourth-is-with-ukip.html
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  39. McPhee, Rod. "Star Wars' Darth Vader: I'd have loved a part in the new film but I'd forget my lines". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
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  43. Couch, Aaron (3 October 2016). "Darth Vader Actor Dave Prowse Retires From International Fan Conventions". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  44. Kitchener, Shaun (7 October 2017). "Star Wars: Sad news as Darth Vader icon David Prowse Retires early with 'health problems'". Daily Express. Express Newspapers. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  45. Newman, Vicki (6 October 2017). "Star Wars' David Prowse pulls out of public appearances and retires Darth Vader". Daily Mirror. MGN Limited. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
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  48. "No. 55710". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1999. pp. 1–38.
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