Darth Vader joins Bury St Edmunds side - Star Wars’ actor David Prowse to make appearance at Moyse’s Hall Museum this weekend
Dark lord of the Sith Darth Vader, aka David Prowse, is coming to Bury St Edmunds’ Time and Space Sci-fi exhibition. The Star Wars icon talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage
When the champion weightlifter turned actor first donned Darth Vader’s iconic, albeit, he reveals, wobbly mask and helmet, Prowse had no idea what he was letting himself in for. He didn’t even think the film would be a hit.
“When I did the movie it was just another job. We had no idea (whether it would be a success). People used to ring and say ‘what’s this film like you’re working on’ and I used to say ‘it seems like a right old load of rubbish’,” he laughs.
“I had no idea what was going on. Half the time the sets weren’t ready, the sets when you were actually working on them were falling down, things like that. It was quite strange. All credit to George Lucas, he made a fantastic movie and it became a fantastic trilogy, now we’re up to six episodes so far with more to come,” says Prowse, who admits he’d love a cameo or different role in next year’s Episode VII.
The 79-year-old will be at this year’s Time and Space exhibition at Moyse’s Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds, tomorrow and Sunday, signing autographs and posing for photographs.
A Star Wars fan since I was four - it was the first film I ever saw - I was a bit starstruck when I called Prowse, who played the Sith lord in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He laughs when I refuse to admit how many times I’ve seen the movies.
“It’s really amazing (fans’ love for the series). I can’t get over it to be perfectly honest. Here I am travelling around the world on the back of something I did donkeys’ years ago,” say the actor, who’s also appeared in shows like The Tomorrow People, Space 1999 and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to name a few.
“Darth Vader is now regarded as the number one screen villain of all time, which is a lovely accolade to have. I didn’t think he was going to become this iconic figure later on in my life.”
Prowse regrets not getting the chance to voice the character in the final dub, which he says had nothing to do with his west country accent.
“There are all sorts of daft stories going round. I did the voice all the way through the movie (shoot) but the dialogue I delivered while we were filming was all coming from behind the mask and was no good for reproduction purposes. George kept saying ‘don’t worry, we’ll go into the sound studios and re-record all your dialogue at the end of the movie’.
“We got to the end and they were in such a mad panic to get everything done. They chased back to America because they couldn’t get the effects they wanted in Great Britain and it was too expensive to get me all the way over there just to overdub a dozen lines; the obvious answer was to get a known voice-over specialist and James Earl Jones was perfect. On the other hand, I think I’m equally as good.”
Prowse, whose bodybuilding career was cut short when a judge told him he had ugly feet, got into acting by accident while a sales rep for an American weight training company. He ran into a famous bodybuilder he knew who asked if he’d be interested in showbiz work.
“I said ‘I’ve never acted, I’ve never had any training’. He said ‘don’t worry, we’ll cross that hurdle when we come to it’.”
Out of the blue he got work in commercials which snowballed into TV series and films - going on to train big stars, including Christopher Reeve for Superman.
He was even a superhero himself, playing the Green Cross Code Man for 14 years.
“That’s my favourite job I’ve ever had. I loved travelling around the country giving talks to children in schools and the results were absolutely fantastic, how we reduced the accident figures in Great Britain.”
It’s Vader he’s most familiar for though. Don’t believe me, ask to look in his kitchen cupboards.
“I get a lot of tea mugs with Darth Vader or my image on, I was looking at my collection and I’ve got 39 of them,” he laughs. “I think I’m going to get in touch with a couple of these companies and go ‘excuse me, I don’t know if you know but you’re using my photographs...’. it’s an interesting situation.”
He must get some strange requests from fans at conventions?
“People go ‘do me a favour, do a signature on my arm’. When I say ‘what did you want it on your arm for’ they say ‘well, I’m going to the tattoo parlour now’. You take it in your stride. I get lightsabers, kids (with) Darth Vader helmets.
“It’s very nice because it’s basically an adult fan base. The kids look at you in awe and wonder and I don’t think they can really relate to it as much as an adult who remembers when he was seven or eight and now he’s 38. After all this time they’re still fanatic Star Wars fans - even better for me if they’re fanatic Darth Vader fans.”
Prowse isn’t the only special guest visiting the fifth Time and Space exhibition, with Doctor Who actress Louise Jameson, who played Tom Baker’s fourth assistant Leela, materialising on November 1.
“We’re very excited about this year’s exhibition and to have stars from Star Wars and Doctor Who come along is something very special,” said Lance Alexander, St Edmundsbury Borough Council TIC and heritage operations manager.
“The original Star Wars film helped spawn the whole sci-fi as blockbuster genre and Darth Vader is one of the most iconic sci-fi villains in cinema history. To honour his presence we will also have 15-20 cosplayers in Star Wars costumes at the museum including Stormtroopers, Princess Leia and, of course, Lord Vader.”
Attracting thousands of visitors each year, there will be range of sci-fi costumes, props, toys and memorabilia from classics including Star Wars, Judge Dredd, Star Trek, Terminator and Doctor Who. You can also meet R2D2 and K9, step inside the Tardis, face off against a Dalek or take part in children’s drop-in craft workshops.
Mr Alexander added: “Since we held the first exhibition in 2010 Time and Space has gone from strength to strength and gained quite a reputation. It’s still very much a community event though with local people helping shape the exhibition and many coming along in sci-fi costumes. We look forward to seeing everyone.”
Time and Space is open 10am-5pm, October 25-November 9.