The Bodybuilder who Played Darth Vader

david prowse darth vader

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How can the bodybuilder who played Darth Vader in Star Wars not be a household name? Everyone knows of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher but few know the name David Prowse. Ok, James Earl Jones provided Vader’s voice in the movies but every time you see Darth Vader in the first three Star Wars movies(1977, 1980, and 1983) David Prowse is under the costume. Prowse was in dozen of television shows and movies dating back to 1956.

Actually, David Prowse, born in Bristol, England, is very well known in the UK as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero created to promote traffic safety for children in a British road safety campaign. He is known to a few for his role in A Clockwork Orange where he plays a wealthy writer’s bodyguard named Julian. He also played Frankenstein’s monster in a couple of Hammer horror films. Prowse lobbied for the role of Superman in the 1978 film version and ended up as a personal trainer to the eventual Superman, Christopher Reeves, for the 1978 Superman and it’s sequels.

6’7″ tall Prowse won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship in 1962, 1963, and 1964. Eventually he opened a series of gyms including ‘The Dave Prowse Fitness Centre’ in London. Although Prowse had success as a weightlifter, he initially started as a bodybuilder. He first started following a Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension course at the age of 15 and moved on weight training. Dave discusses his bodybuilding career and why he moved on to competitive weightlifting:

My competing days started with the Junior Mr. West Britain that I never won, on to the Mr. West Britain, where for several years I was always 2nd or 3rd to the like of much shorter but more proportionate bodybuilders like Ron Thomas, John Pegler and Graham Price. By the time the 1960 Mr. Universe contest came round I’d blossomed from a start of 6′ 5″ and 11 1/2 stones (2meters and 75k) to 6’7″ and 17 stone 31bs (just over 2meters and 110k). But my problem was that although I was regarded as one of the top 20 physiques in the country, at 6′ 7″ I was nowhere near as heavily muscled as the shorter competitors and after the disappointment of being told by the chief judge that my ugly feet would always count against me, I decided to throw in the bodybuilding towel and turn my sights to competitive weightlifting.

-David Prowse

Prowse was also very active signing autographs at Star Wars and Sci-Fi conventions. He was close friends with bodybuilder and Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno who is also know to frequent fan conventions. No word on who charges more per autograph. Now that you’re more familiar with bodybuilder, weightlifting champion, and actor David Prowse, we leave you with what could have been the voice of Darth Vader. See video below.

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