British actor David Prowse began weightlifting at the age of 16 and became his country's champion in that field five years later, holding on to the title for two years. Theatrical producers and filmakers found the imposed Prowse to be an excellent type for supernatural roles; he was cast as Death in the play -- Don't Let Summer Come -- principally because the role required Prowse to pick up and carry off one of the cast members. Following a bit in his first film, Casino Royale (1967), Prowse settled into horror films. He wasn't quite able to carry on the Karloff tradition as the Monster in The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) due to rather unimaginative makeup and uninspired direction. The actor's subsquent monster in Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1972) was more effective (with a truly disgusting makeup job), as was his role as wheelchair-bound Patrick Magee's foreboding bodyguard in A Clockwork Orange (1971). Prowse's widest international exposure occured in three films in which neither his voice was heard nor his face seen. He was paid $12,000 for his role as Darth Vader in Star Wars (1977) Prowse had his voice dubbed by James Earl Jones, who received $10,000. Both Prowse and Jones repeated their work in the Star Wars sequels Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983); but when David Prowse's black helmet mask was finally pulled off in Return of the Jedi (1983), the closeup was of an entirely different actor with a whole new voice!
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Has struggled with early-onset osteoarthritis since the age of 13.
- Competed in Olympic-level weightlifting competitions during the early 1960s.
- Owned and operated his own gym in London, where his trainees included actors Albert Finney and Christopher Reeve.
- Starred in a popular public awareness campaign in 1970s England as the Green Cross man.