Biography | Interviews | Resume

Biography

    David was born on July, 1 1935 in Bristol England and will always been known from a role he first played when he was 42 - Darth Vader. He was the man behind the mask in the Star Wars Trilogy and felt he received no credit at the time and has made it his mission to tell the world that David Prowse IS Darth Vader. This is even how he signs Vader memorabilia. The controversy arose when the film first premiered. Davids' thick British accent was correctly replaced by the booming voice of James Earl Jones. This caused many people to believe that James WAS actually in the suit. George Lucas, the director of the first Star Wars in 1977, always maintained that David's voice was going to be replaced. David maintains this is not the case. Even though he played Vader in The Holiday Special, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, he will never be playing Vader again.
    The problem is that David was so mad about it that in recent years he blasted Lucas for putting a black mans' voice in Vader because there were no blacks in the film. Basically he is calling Lucas a racist saying he bowed to pressure at the lack of minorities in the film. Whether this is true or not, he has permanently been banned by Lucasfilm because of these remarks. It is true that there are no blacks in the first film, but Billy Dee Williams was given a prominent role in the second film. It seems he hasn't accepted the fact that James Earl Jones voice really made the character, not the person in the suit. The power of the voice can make a film. For example who wants to hear a film with bad narration? A a strong voice can push the film to new heights - just think of Malcolm's narration in ACO. Now can you imagine the film without it?
    In 1948 at the age of 13, David was very athletic, but developed a problem with his left knee that was thought to be Tuberculosis. He wore a brace on his entire leg until he was 15 which ended his athletic career. He didn't have TB, but he had Osgood Schlatters disease, which was relatively unknown back then. After school like most of us he had to take the odd job to survive like selling vitamins and gym equipment, being a bouncer at a dance hall, personal trainer, caber tossing in the Highland games and a game show contestant.
    In 1960 David entered the Mr. Universe contest and was able to build up his strength becoming a world champion body builder with a massive 6' 7" frame. After much competition without finishing 1st he moved onto Heavyweight Weightlifting achieving many records and becoming champion for three straight years 1962-4. Because of his massive bulk it led him into film, but not as the leading man he preferred. Instead he got the job of monsters in three of the Hammer films, Doctor Who and Space 1999. It wasn't until Stanley Kubrick cast him as Julian, a bodybuilder and Mr. Alexander's bodyguard, that the world knew he could act in a regular role. When the greatest director of all-time casts you, other directors take notice. David revealed in my interview that it was his role in ACO that opened up the door to better parts. It was because of ACO that George Lucas brought him in. He didn't even have to audition because if Kubrick used him he must be good. He got the call in early 1975 having no clue about Lucas, Star Wars or anything. Lucas offered him the big black armor clad villain or the giant fuzzy dog part - Chewbacca. David picked Vader since as he said, "everyone remembers the villain."
    Soon after he got a call to play another roll that would change his life, but this was not a film roll or a villain. It was for The Green Cross Code Man. This roll has become his all-time favorite because it was more than JUST a roll, it was a safety ad campaign to help save children from being hit by cars when crossing the street. These were his lines, "First find a safe place to cross then stop. Stand near the curb not on it. Look all around for traffic and if traffic is coming let it pass. If there is NO traffic coming, walk straight across the road, looking and listening as you cross." This lead to a massive speaking campaign at schools all over England and the world. Which in turn lead him to receiving  an M.B.E. award in the Millennium Honors list and was presented with a medal by the Queen in June of 2000.
    In 1970 he opened a huge gym in London primarily for weight training on five floors. It includes heavy gym,  facilities for men and women, a cardiovascular fitness gym and an aerobics studio. Famous clients include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephanie Powers and Vennesa Redgrave. Because of his expertise he was given the job of training Christopher Reeve for Superman in the first film in 1978, a roll he wanted for himself, but wasn't cast because he was too British.
    He left acting in 1984 and the Star Wars revival began in the mid 1990s he became in demand on the Star Wars Convention circuit starting in 1993. In 1997 he was part of the 'Men Behind the Masks' tour with fellow actors who appeared in costumes like Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Peter Mayhem (Chewbacca) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2). He has made appearances throughout the world with them or by himself. He charges a hefty price for his autograph anywhere from $15-25. It was on one of these tours that I met him and was able to talk to him about ACO. He was very gracious and glad to talk about it.
    In 1990 he injured his right hip while training with weights and this has given him problems ever since. He had his hip replaced, but broke his ankle soon after. He then had to come to the US to get a bone fusion operation. Years later he reinjured his hip, had a blood disease, arthritis and other problems he found out the real problem was with his spine. He has had both hips replaced and one reset again. If that wasn't enough he was in a car accident - someone rear ended him.
    Because of all his medical problems in 1992 he started an arthritis charity, Dave Prowse's Force Against Arthritis. The goal was to collect money to build a new arthritis research center near where he lives.
    He is married to Norma and has a daughter Rachel and two other children with her.  He is planning on releasing an autobiography called 'Straight From The Forces mouth' - a nod to The Force in Star Wars.

Interviews

My Exclusive Interview with David "Julian" Prowse 1997

Q: Is it true that you got your role as Darth Vader because George Lucas saw your work on ACO?  

A: Yes. 

Q: What was it like working with Malcolm McDowell?  

A: I found it very pleasant. I liked him very much. He was very easy to work with and I felt he was a very professional actor and a very good actor as well. 

Q: Have you kept in touch with Malcolm now that you are a bigger villain then he is?  

A: No, not Malcolm. No, heís doing wonderful though. Heís playing all of these marvelous villain roles now. I mean heís always played villain roles, but I think heís playing more sinister villains than in the past. 

Q: Is it true you suffered from exhaustion on the set of "ACO" from repeated takes of carrying Mr. Alexander in his wheelchair?  

A: Well, it was more exhausting carrying Malcolm because we did that nonstop all day. We did like umpteen takes, and Malcolm is no lightweight, and when Stanley said that he wanted me to carry Patrick McGee in his wheelchair down the stairs I said, 'Look Iím not going to do it all day like the other scene.' He said, 'Of course not, we will shoot it as quick as we can.' So I said, 'Well your name's not 'One take Kubrick' is it?' And everyone thought I was going to get attacked right then and there for calling him 'One take Kubrick'. We ended up shooting in it in six takes. It was still a strenuous part and a strenuous role. 

Q: Many actors say that Kubrick is cruel and too demanding to work with. What was your experience with him like?  

A: As far as I was concerned I thought he was wonderful. I think Stanley certainly had a different perspective of me then of other actors. He never thought of me as an actor. He thought of me as more of a strongman and not as a regular actor and because of that I had a very nice association with him, he didnít treat me like he treated actors, I mean he treated actors like shit, he really does. One time while we were filming the scene where they are trying to get Alex to commit suicide, John Savident is rolling the billiard balls across the table. Kubrick wanted him to get them in the pockets on the other side and Kubrick went mad trying to get John to get the balls in the pocket but it was just something he couldnít do he actually made John break down into tears. I mean he was really a vicious director. 

Q: Do you remember your lines from "A Clockwork Orange"? 

A: No. No, I donít. 

Q: Do you have any final recollections on the making of "ACO"?  

A: Yeah, I got involved in some of the stunt work. Stanley was very a demanding person and he would ask me to do things that Iíve never had to do on a movie before. For me it was a wonderful experience working with a wonderful director and Iíve never forgotten it. And of course the big thing for me was that all of a sudden it established me as an actor. I was acting for 10 years before "Star Wars" came out, I did 7 or 8 different movies and tons of TV work, but until Stanley and "A Clockwork Orange" everybody always thought of me as the monster, creature or the villain. Nobody would ever think of casting my as a happy father in a corn flake commercial. It was always because I had a big physique I was getting cast in all of these roles but Stanley saw something in me. After "ACO" I was doing all the major TV series and comedy series and all sorts of other work was coming my way. Then eventually Lucas came and offered me two parts in the movie. He offered me Chewbaccaís role and I turned it down. Then he said, 'Well how about doing the big villain in the film for me?' and I said, 'Sure Iíd love to!' and that was it. I didnít have to audition, I didnít have to read and I was there. I would say that "Clockwork" was the most influential job in my career, I mean "Star Wars" was big but it didnít do me much good as far as getting me work where as "ACO" was fantastic. 

Interviewed by Victoria Moore for the London Metro newspaper 8/17/00 

Q: Was Kubrick difficult to work with ?

DP: He was an absolute bastard as far as other actors were concerned. He drove people into the ground - a very hard taskmaster. He'd shoot and shoot and shoot for as many takes as he wanted. And then he might end up using one of the earlier takes. Another thing he would do was to change the dialogue all the time. People would have learned their lines and the poor actor had to remember the changes to the changes. He wouldn't give you a break to learn new lines, he'd just want to go on and on. I saw people reduced to tears because Stanley kept going for them.

Q: Did you and Kubrick have any disagreements ?

DP: In my major scene in the movie I had to carry Patrick McGee in his wheelchair down three flights of stairs and then do a dialogue scene as if nothing had happened. I couldn't believe it. The combined weight must have been over 200lbs. Kubrick said "Come on, you can do it, you're a strongman". I said "Yes, but your name's not exactly 'One-Take Kubrick' is it?".
Everyone thought I was going to get the sack as soon as I said that.

Q: You got away with it...

DP: He didn't regard me as an actor. I was a strongman-athlete who'd come into the business. He'd ask me to sit with him and tell him about my weightlifting and so on. I finished the movie with an open invite to go up to his house whenever I wanted.

Q: Didn't you also play a vital role in the making of Full Metal Jacket?

DP: I was quite good friends with Stanley and he asked me if I had a sunbed. He said he had six actors coming over from Hollywood. They were supposed to be in Vietnam and he needed them to be tanned. He gave me five days to get them browned for him. They changed color all right. In the end he bought a sunbed off me to keep their tans topped up.

Resume

Title Role Year Notes
Casino Royale Frankenstein's Creature 1967 
Hammerhead George 1968
The Beverly Hillbillies Emlyn 10/16/68 "Coming Through the Rye" 
The Saint Tony 2/2/69 "Portrait of Brenda"
Crossplot   Wedding guest 1969
The Horror of Frankenstein The Monster 1970 2 ACO Actors!
Ace of Wands Kal 1970 "One + One + One are 4" 
Callan Wellington 4/8/70 "Where Else Could I Go?" 
A Clockwork Orange Julian 1971 Mr. Alexander's Bodyguard
Up the Chastity Belt Sir Grumbell de Grunt 1971
Up Pompeii Man 1971
Carry On Henry Torturer 1971
Vampire Circus Strongman 1972
Department S Adolfo 1/12/72 "Treasure of the Costa Del Sol" 
Doctor Who Minotaur 5/20/72 "The Time Monster" 
The Tomorrow People Android 1973 "The Medusa Strain" 
Arthur of the Britons Col 2/7/73 Episode: "The Slave" 
Arthur of the Britons Brosk 10/10/73 episode: "Go Warily" 
White Cargo Harry 1973
Blacksnake! Walker's Brother 1973
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell The Creature 1974
Callan Arthur 1974
The Best of Benny Hill Strongman 1974 TV "Wishing Well"
Confessions of a Pop Performer Man at cinema 1975
Space: 1999 Cloud Creature 1976 Ep: "The Beta Cloud"
3 Commercials Green Cross code man 1976 Safety ads
Personal Appearances Green Cross code man 1976-90 At schools
Star Wars Darth Vader 1977
The People That Time Forgot Executioner 1977
The Making of Star Wars Darth Vader 1977
Jabberwocky Red Herring & Black Knights 1977
Superman Physical trainer 1978 Not in film on crew
Star Wars Holiday Special Darth Vader 1978 TV
As You Like It Charles 1978 TV
A Horseman Riding By Jem Pollock 1978 TV Mini Series
Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader 1980
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Hotblack Desiato's Bodyguard 1981 TV Mini Series
Return of the Jedi  Darth Vader 1983
More Bloody Meetings 1984
Star Wars Monopoly  Darth Vader 1997 Board Game w/VHS
Light Lunch Himself 1998
Vita LŲgner Hotel Guest 10/12/98 Episode # 2.36
The 100 Greatest TV Moments Himself 1999 TV
Jack Docherty Show  Himself 2001  Interview
Stars Wars in Japan Himself 8/14/08 G4 Interview

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