This muscle-bound man is familiar to most moviegoers, though to a good many of you, his face is unfamiliar. Folks who hail from the same geographic area as he will more than likely find it simple, as will diehard fans of the film(s) he is associated with, but for a lot of us, this is something of a stumper.
The shots of this gentleman in a skimpy leather get-up are from a 1972 horror flick called Vampire Circus. The circus is filled with shape-shifting vampires, dangerous animals, diminutive clowns and others. The guy in question is the resident strongman and flunky. His role in the movie is wordless.
His chief function, apart from occasionally knocking someone around or disposing of a body, is to look strapping and hunky in his li'l outfit, which he does rather nicely.
As I say, practically all of us have seen him in a famous role on-screen. Thing is, we never saw his face (or, as in this case as well) heard his voice! His voice was provided by another actor, one who was renowned for its quality. The physically imposing character he enacted was really a force to be reckoned with. Does that sew it up for you?
Yes, this man is David Prowse, the body behind the black helmet and costume of one Darth Vader, chief villain of Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983.) Vader's voice, of course, came courtesy of James Earl Jones.
Here is a shot of Prowse decked out in his suit, minus the iconic helmet:
To a generation of moviegoers, Darth Vader was the epitome of a powerful, threatening menace. While it's true that Jones (and the heavy respiration of the helmet) contributed enormously to the success of the part, Prowse's build and movements also aided in putting the part across.
Somewhere along the line, the once- amiable relationship between Prowse and series creator George Lucas (seen here with beard and glasses, along with director Irvin Kirschner) disintegrated into outright animosity. It stems from allegations that Prowse revealed key plot plots to the media about the sequels despite being sworn to secrecy and/or from the fact that in the third film, the character's unmasking was played by someone other than Prowse, a Shakespearean actor named Sebastian Shaw, whose less-than-three minute scene was shot in one day under a blanket of secrecy.
As a result, Prowse has been banned since 2010 from any official Star Wars conventions. Despite Jedi (a movie budgeted at $32 million) having taken in $475 million, Prowse has never been paid residuals due to what he calls "Hollywood accounting." I thought you might like to see the man behind the mask (he's seen here as a weightlifter in a 1968 episode of the British TV series The Champions.)
The 6'6" bodybuilder, who competed as a weightlifter prior to acting on TV and in movies, had slimmed down quite a bit by the time of Star Wars, as one can see from this portrait. Now eighty years of age, he has been stricken by several physical ailments from hip replacements to arthritis to prostate cancer, but is still well-regarded by many fans for his work in the legendary movie trilogy.
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