With the passing of Dave Prowse, another member of the Original Trilogy family has left us, but he leaves behind some wonderful memories, and members and friends of Fantha Tracks bring us their own recollections, anecdotes and stories of the man behind the most famous villain in cinema.
We kick off with the man who formed Vader’s Fist over two decades ago.
Albin Johnson, TK210 Founder, 501st Legion Vader’s Fist
Meeting your heroes rarely lives up to expectations. But for Star Wars fans meeting Darth Vader in person one could feel the imposing presence of Lord Vader, feel the ominous power of a titan. And yet, when he spoke, one felt the warm friendship of a Jedi master. Maybe Dave Prowse had more of Anakin in him than we thought?
My first encounter with Mr. Prowse was not in person, but by email in 1999. My request: Would he be willing to accept the role as Honorary Commander of our newly‐formed club the 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist? Much to my surprise, the gentleman running the site replied with “Yes, Dave would be honored to be your commander.” And just like that, Darth Vader embraced his Legion of fans. And for years after that he would proudly remind anyone in the Legion that he was the real boss.
Over the years I would meet Dave several times in person. Each time he was extremely gracious, polite to a fault, and always eager to speak with his fans. Once at San Diego Comic Con my 14‐year‐old daughter saw him at a party and said “Ooh, he’s bigger than I thought. Nope, I’m too scared to meet him.” I gently led her over and his response was “Scared of me? No, no ‐ sit down with me and your dad and call me Grandpa Vader. Here, we’ll make sure you get all the milk shakes you like. Stick by me and I will keep you safe from the real danger: teenage boys!”
Our conversations were always interesting: our talks about his work as the Green Cross Code man and how kids have changed over the years, the quest he put me on to find him a shandy when no one in the bar knew what that was, and the stories from his days working for Stanley Kubrick. One time at Celebration II in 2002 his line was so long it was blocking access to all the other celebrities. So, while still in Stormtrooper armor, I helped shepherded his line so everyone could see him more quickly. He turned to me and said, “Good work, trooper.” That’s right: I got to be the one Stormtrooper working for Lord Vader that he actually complimented instead of killed!
But that was what it was like being around Mr. Prowse. He gave you all the warm fuzzies of being with one of your favorite characters, while still being the most grounded and lovely person. His smile was earnest, the twinkle in his eye genuine, and he truly did care to hear what you had to say. The man I knew was less of a movie star than a drinking buddy and a good mate. Dave was one of the ‘masks’, one of the actors whose best work was out there without the world seeing his face. But he was very proud of his work and embraced the title of Vader. Wherever possible he really did try to make a difference in the world and help the Star Wars fan community. He was fantastic to fans, loved the costuming clubs, and was always very kind to me and my family.
I salute you, Dave, and bid you farewell as you ascend to the Force. I am so glad to have known you. We will miss you, good sir.
I met Dave Prowse on three occasions. The first was at a games expo in Manchester in 2014. Situated at EventCity near to the Trafford Centre, the event was mostly geared up for gamers and – if truth be known – I was only wanting to go to meet R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker and Darth Vader himself – Dave Prowse.
It was a strange set-up. The celebs, which also included cast members from Red Dwarf, were certainly playing second fiddle to antiquated games consoles, with the queues to play Mario Kart far longer than those to meet Kenny and Dave. In retrospect it was a great place to see the two film icons. Along with my children, Matthew (then aged 11) and Rachel (14) had plenty of time to talk with Kenny and Dave. Dave was on good form. We chatted a lot about The Empire Strikes Back, which was great. Matthew who was being uncharacteristically brave even spoke to the Sith Lord. It was a cute meeting, made extra special because I shared it with my kids.
My next encounter with Mr Prowse was at Star Wars Fan Fun Day at Turf Moor Stadium, home to Burnley Football Club, in May 2017. It was my first Fan Fun Day, and what a great experience. If you haven’t been, make sure you go when the next event is held – hopefully in 2021. I got to chat with a wide variety of Star Wars actors from across all three trilogies and from Rogue One. However, it will remain special as it was the one and only time I interviewed Dave. We talked about Star Wars of course, but for the most part the interview focussed on his pride for achieving his MBE for his contribution to road safety through his role as The Green Cross Code Man. I didn’t care what we talked about. I was chatting candidly with the man who embodied one of the most feared villains in the galaxy – and the man who taught me how to safely cross a road.
Even then, Dave’s health was deteriorating and he was increasingly needing to use a wheelchair, so, it came as little surprise when his final public appearance was scheduled for the December of that year. I was fortunate – no, privileged – to be among the few hundred folk to attend Empire Day at Feltham just prior to Christmas 2017. The event took place in a village hall and was specifically chosen for ease of access for Dave, who lived nearby. Imperial officers from the original trilogy and other Star Wars alumni attended the event that was hastily put together to give Mr Prowse one final bow before he took much-deserved retirement. It was a fantastic event. Small in scale, big in heart, and I am so glad I attended.
RIP Dave. Your importance to the saga is undoubtable. We have all felt, and forever will feel, your presence. It was a privilege to have met you.
As a youngster, like millions of kids across the world, I was in awe of the fearsome dark lord of the sith Darth Vader, arguably the greatest screen villain of them all. At the same time I was listening closely to the lessons given by the Green Cross Code Man, who taught kids of the day important road safety lessons (I’ve never crossed the street from between parked cars because of it). I watched Dave on TV shows like TISWAS, the legendary anarchic Saturday morning kids TV show that consisted mostly of grown-ups having a riot of a time, The Morecambe and Wise show and as I grew older more regularly at conventions around the UK.
In 2000 I was fortunate enough to interview him for my old site Lightsabre, and while that interview was conducted via email I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to ping some questions to the big man. I asked him the obvious Star Wars-related questions, but also about his time training Christopher Lee to play Superman, a role he wanted himself (“I lobbied very hard for this role! Not many people know that“) and of course, TISWAS which elicited a response I’ve cherished ever since (“You lot are quite insane aren’t you?…”)
Over the years Dave accumulated more air miles than any other Star Wars actor. Often alongside fellow convention staples Jeremy Bulloch and Peter Mayhew he met Star Wars fans from every corner of the planet, was the Honorary Commander of the 501st legion – Vader’s Fist don’t forget – and despite mobility issues didn’t take his foot off the gas until December 2017 when he stepped back from conventions with his final event, Dave Prowse Empire Day.
Another member of our beloved Original Trilogy cast has left us, but few put such an indelible stamp not only on the screen saga but also the fandom surrounding it. For that we can only say thank you Dave.
I met Dave Prowse many times throughout my life but the very first time was in a shopping centre in Belfast near where I grew up. It was around the time of The Empire Strikes Back’s original cinematic release and Dave was appearing as Darth Vader. I’d been nagging my dad about it for weeks. Finally he agreed to give me a lift and we waited eagerly for the big day to arrive.
As usual dad was overly optimistic about how long it would take us to get to Belfast, find a parking space and get to the shopping centre. We got there very late and I was absolutely gutted to find that Dave had already changed from the Sith lord we know and love to his kinder alter ego of the Green Cross Code Man. To make it even worse, we discovered that the super cool new bad guy Boba Fett had also been there. I was distraught and wouldn’t even talk to my dad! Little did I know that over 30 years later, the circle would be completed.
Fast forward to 2013. I had moved to Sweden, joined the 501st Legion and met Dave many more times. He was the Honorary Commanding Officer of the Legion and always took the time to visit our stand, say hello and take photographs with us all. He was attending Sci-Fi World, a regular convention in Sweden, and was taking part in a question and answer session. When nobody asked a question, I decided to get the ball rolling but, rather than ask a question only about Darth Vader, I asked him if he would prefer to be remembered as Darth Vader, all round bad guy but one of the most iconic films characters of all time or if he’d prefer the Green Cross Code Man, less well known (especially in Sweden) but who had taught kids all over Britain (including myself) how to be safe when out on busy roads.
I’d expected a short answer and definitely that he would say Vader, after all, that is who he is most recognised as and how he has made the majority of his living. To my surprise Dave began by explaining exactly who the Green Cross Code Man was then spoke in great detail for over 40 minutes about how much his role in helping save the lives of kids all over the UK had affected both his public and private lives. He was so proud of his work and, when I saw him later that day, he actually thanked me for giving him the chance to talk about that work.
The circle was complete!
Thanks for all the memories Dave, your good humour and personality will be sorely missed at our next convention here in Sweden.
I first met Dave Prowse in the mid ’90s and at conventions many times since. His proudest work was as the Green Cross Code Man, teaching kids in the 70’s and ’80s road safety lessons. Dave used to do 2-3 school appearances a day, which no doubt saved thousands of lives. That campaign earned him an MBE from the Queen.
We were lucky enough to get him to one of our Corsham Sci-fi events which he enjoyed so much he returned the following year. One of the team from Podpad Studios even repaired the original Green Cross Code robot for him.
I last saw him at his home for a private signing. Such a wonderful man to meet in person who loved telling stories, he will be missed, but his legacy will live on through his work on the silver screen as the dark lord of the sith, Darth Vader.
- Hardcover Book
- English (Publication Language)
- 336 Pages - 08/25/2020 (Publication Date) - Marvel (Publisher)