David Prowse's Career: Crossing from the Commonwealth to the Clone Wars
Not many people in the world of weightlifting can claim to have coached a Kryptonian, been idolised as a road safety superhero by thousands of British school kids, then subsequently struck terror into their heart’s years later as a Dark Lord of the Sith.
But then again David Prowse wasn’t your regular weightlifter. As well as winning multiple national titles he appeared in over 70 films, including Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Star Wars.
Prowse’s performance in George Luca’s science fiction flick would ultimately come to define his career as his portrayal of Darth Vader is often cited as one of the most iconic Hollywood villains that tinsel town has ever seen.
The bodybuilder was perfectly cast to fill the boots of the black Samurai suit due to the powerful presence offered by his 6 ft 7 frame. and weightlifting provided the ideal route for him to reach peak physique for the role.
It was a hobby Prowse took up after being bed bound in hospital during his teenage years.
After 9 years of training, he started competing in Mr Universe at the age of 25 in 1960 where he would later face off against Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of the decade.
The Bristol-born bodybuilder took a bronze medal at the British Weight Lifting Heavyweight Championships in 1961 before going on to win the event outright for the next three consecutive years.
During that spell of success, Prowse was selected to represent Team England at the 1962 British Empire & Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia.
Prowse competed in the Men’s 110kg class but failed to record a classified result.
However, like Jason Statham in diving, Prowse had the power to transcend the sport in which he originally made his mark.
Rather than being the end of the road that Commonwealth result would springboard him to success elsewhere while also attracting attention back to the world of weightlifting.
Prowse was tasked with getting Christopher Reeve’s into shape to play Superman before pounding the pavements as the Green Cross Code Man in a series of road safety films during the 1970s.
That latter role would eventually earn him an MBE courtesy of the Queen in 2000 for services to road safety and charity.
In the late 1970s George Lucas came calling and Prowse took on the role of Vader, a part he would play in all three films in the original trilogy.
While Prowse provided the physical performance under the armour, his West County accent was dubbed in post-production with James Earl Jones providing the iconic deep vocals.
Sebastian Shaw also filled in when the mask was removed. However, the powerful performance by Prowse still remains popular and his original suited character has often been revisited.
Hayden Christensen took inspiration from Prowse’s prowess when he eventually donned the black suit in the prequel trilogy while more recently in Rogue One the role of Vader was shared between stuntmen Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous.
In 2014 Prowse revealed he was diagnosed with dementia and he officially retired from public appearances four years later.
However, even today he continues to be an inspiration to budding bodybuilders, lightsaber wielders and weightlifting watchers all around the world.