Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our second guest is a legend of the saga – Dave Prowse.
Lightsabre – Dave, welcome to Lightsabre.
Lightsabre – Tell us what led to you originally becoming a part of the trilogy?
DP – None of us knew the first movie would evolve into a trilogy! I’d worked on A Clockwork Orange with Stanley Kubrick and since Stanley was such a prestigious director this opened all sorts of doors for me, one of them being Star Wars. George Lucas was casting about and had heard favourable things about my work in A Clockwork Orange and asked me to come in, which of course I did even though no one knew what the film was about!
Lightsabre – I’m sure you have many stories of days on the sets of the films. Would you care to share one with us?
DP – I suppose the most fun I had was on the second film. By then of course I knew my voice would be overdubbed and I wasn’t worried about saying my lines quite as correctly as I did in the first film. I had to say to the captain something like “Asteroids do not concern me, I need that ship!” for of course I still had to speak all of Vader’s dialogue so the other actor’s could respond to me. Only instead I said, quite sternly, “Hemorrhoids do not concern me, I need to shit!”
Lightsabre – There seemed to be a good camaraderie between the cast and crew that comes across in the films. But tell us, how on earth did you manage to keep going through the destruction of Alderaan scene when Peter Cushing was wearing slippers?
DP – Well to be honest I don’t remember that! Remember I was in this helmet that cut off about 90% of my vision! I do remember smiling quite a bit inside it though since I knew it wouldn’t be seen on film, so of course while the poor planet is being blown up I’m smiling and laughing like mad!
I had also worked with dear Peter before, on a Hammer film called Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (guess which part I played!) and he was a lovely man in all respects.
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. You’ve been a successful athlete, ruler of the galaxy and road safety spokesman, but what else have you done?
DP – I’ve done a bit of everything. Sold vitamins and gym equipment, a bouncer at a dance hall, personal trainer, actor, competitor in Highland games (caber tossing!), weightlifter, bodybuilder, Britain’s Strongest Man, game show contestant, etc. But I must say the work I’m proudest of is the Green Cross Code man. I’m still thrilled when children tell me they remember the code!
Lightsabre – You trained Christopher Reeves for his role as Superman in the 1978 movie. Legend has it that Chris auditioned wearing shoulder pads and that you built him up from a beanpole into the Man of Steel in six weeks. Is that true?
DP – Very good question as I lobbied very hard for this role! Not many people know that. The director told me I was perfect except of course that I was British and not American and that the American’s wouldn’t accept an Englishman as this great American hero. This was before of course they foisted Kevin Costner on us as Robin Hood!
Anyway, I did indeed train Chris for the part, as he was quite skinny when he first came to me. I had him on protein drinks and exercise for six weeks! He got into the regime though and made the best from it.
DP – No, I haven’t though I tried to contact him to appear with me on a British chat show. I’m also involved in the rights of the disabled and do some fundraising for that and I thought it would have been a big boost for the campaign but it couldn’t be worked out.
Lightsabre – You’ve had your own well-publicised battle against arthritis. At one point you seemed in an awfully bad way but today you look fighting fit. How did you do it?
DP – I was in a bad way for a while. I’ve had both hips replaced and after one operation the hip kept dislocating! It would cause quite a fuss and they would rush me off to hospital and I was supposed to stay off it. I am doing better now though one of my legs is shorter than the other due to the operations. I’m hoping they can do something about that. As for how, I still try to eat right and exercise. Training has been such a huge part of my life and career I hope to keep going with it, even though I’ve closed down my gym.
Lightsabre – You obviously worked closely with George Lucas during the making of the trilogy? Is he an easy man to work with?
DP – You must remember George is really quite shy. When we were making Star Wars no one was quite sure he knew what he was doing! Luckily as you know it all worked out. As a director he was not that interested in Vader. I developed the walk and mannerisms on my own and I suppose he approved for I never received directions otherwise!
Lightsabre – You’re involved with your own fan site on the internet, answering questions and requests at speed. What is the attraction of the internet for you?
DP – Actually I’m not that involved in the fan site. My road manager in America and fan club president Max Patterson arranged the whole thing and Louis Tambone does an excellent job of maintaining the site. All credit should be given to them. The attraction, and my particular participation is in being able to communicate with my fans, answer their questions, get a feel for how they respond to Vader. I used to really try to answer actual letters and was always falling behind due to travel demands or other factors. I, and I’m sure many celebrities, have a certain amount of guilt over letters that didn’t get answered or got answered after long delays. This way, even with the system of forwards and my own slow typing, is much more enjoyable!
Lightsabre – How much did you enjoy Episode I? It must have felt strange not being involved in a Star Wars film?
DP – It was quite strange seeing a Star Wars film without meself in it! But Jar Jar was so distracting I hardly noticed!
Lightsabre – If you could have any influence on the character development of young Anakin, as he becomes Darth Vader what would it be?
DP – That’s an excellent question and one I’ve not gotten before. I suppose in my own head I had formed an idea of Vader’s background and a former slave on Tatooine wasn’t what I had in mind. I’ll enjoy seeing how George makes it work but if I could write the scripts I would love to bring out Vader’s nobility and sense of honour (characteristics I think he possessed but were overshadowed by the dark side). I’ve always thought the chap a rather imposing fellow and that had to have come from something in his background, eh?
DP – I am looking forward to it, just to see where they go with it, and of course to see my old friend Christopher Lee!
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question – It’s a dark and stormy night. A barely lit street is the scene. At one end stands the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. At the other end stands a shadowy figure in black – The Phantom Flan-flinger from TISWAS. Who wins?
DP – You lot are quite insane aren’t you?…
Lightsabre – Thanks Dave. Congratulations on the MBE and best wishes for the future.
DP – Thanks for the opportunity to reflect!
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 20th July 2000.