The Man Behind the Mask: David Prowse


Just over two weeks ago, it was announced that David Prowse, the man beneath the suit and mask of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, had passed away at age 85. Known best for his physical role as the ultimate and diabolical villain within the Star Wars universe, Prowse was also an acclaimed bodybuilder, his stature and build making him unbeatable for the role. Aside from lending his menacing presence to Star Wars, he worked on countless other films such as The Horror of Frankenstein, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and even A Clockwork Orange, the role that originally made him catch George Lucas’ eye. His UK fans might first have known him as The Green Cross Man, a superhero character created to spread public information regarding road safety within the United Kingdom.

With all of his achievements in mind, the team at Project Stardust wanted to honor and remember David Prowse, and the legacy he left behind on the world.

Art by Louvrecommissions

Lauren: “Star Wars has always been a part of my life. There was something about the story and the characters that I latched onto and just never let go. While I loved seeing my space princess, Darth Vader had a special place in my heart. I thought he was the coolest character and I literally wanted to be him. I remember draping my pink and blue blanket over my shoulders and marching down the hallway pretending I had an army of Stormtroopers behind me. When I heard of David Prowse’ passing, I thought about his physical performance – it couldn’t have been easy to show us the power of the dark side in such a cumbersome suit, but he really made it work and made it believable. I’ll always be grateful for the way he brought Vader to life for weird girls like me.”

Lindsay: “David was the physical embodiment of Vader– a formidable figure from the first moment on screen. He stood tall, and moved with purpose. David brought him to life and made the mold for how we would always see Vader. In some ways David was one of the most present characters while also being an invisible man. We don’t hear his voice (maybe a point of contention in the whole scheme of things) and when the helmet comes off, we don’t see his face. But it’s hard to imagine another hulking figure standing in David’s place. Like Mark Hamill said, he was more than a man behind the mask– a dad, a husband, an athlete, an actor– but we’ll always remember him for playing a central villain (with good in him!) a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

Kelly: “I met David Prowse in 2002 at Wizard World Philly, along with Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker. I was 15 at the time, and my mom took me to the con specifically to meet the guys from Star Wars. We picked up a random poster that had the whole cast from A New Hope, and my mom told me I could pick two of the three to sign it. That is perhaps one of the more difficult choices I’ve had to make in my life, as I loved all three characters. But, I chose David Prowse and Peter Mayhew, and I’m so glad I did. David was so gracious to the awkward fangirl I was, and I think he was thrilled at how thrilled I was to meet Darth Freakin’ Vader. Our encounter may have been short, and it may have been one of hundreds or even thousands he had that day, but I’ll never forget it. Rest in Peace, David.”

Staci: “I have loved Darth Vader from the beginning. He was bad boy number 1. He’d come floating into a scene strong and forceful with the theme music booming. No one could stop him from doing what he wanted. He was that powerful! When I was young, I had no idea how movies were made, let alone voice-over and special effects. I didn’t give it any thought until years later when I found out that someone else did Vader’s voice. What a voice! That is what makes the character, I thought. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it wasn’t just the voice of Vader that made him so great. At the end of Rogue One, [SPOILER ALERT] Vader shows up. He’s supposed to be that same scary and powerful character that he was in the original trilogy. I had to keep from laughing. It was so obvious to me that it was not the same actor playing the body of Darth Vader. Despite the voice being the same, the movements were all wrong. People have said that he didn’t do much but hold his hand up but I disagree. That walk cannot be recreated. Vader is embodied by David Prowse. David Prowse will be missed.”

Barbara: “In 1977, I was 11, and Darth Vader was the embodiment of all that was evil. That tall ominous figure gripping tightly to Princess Leia’s shoulder forcing her to watch as they annihilated her home planet. It just never got more villainous than that, and David Prowse was the man who brought him to life. It takes a very special actor to take on a role like that, and David was surely up to the task. We all know the voice behind the mask, but that presence, the stride, that choking grip, and dare I say it, the finger pointing… That was purely David Prowse, and I both loved and loathed him for it. I’m told in real life he was a genuine gentleman, which often seems to be the case with silver screen villains. Our world is just a little smaller and a little sadder today with the loss of such a giant. It’s been said countless times already but let me add to the chorus: May the Force be with you Sir, and thank you for the all the nightmares.”