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The Guy Who Played Darth Vader Has Been Blackballed From 'Star Wars'

Updated August 14, 2019 102.2k views13 items

When bodybuilder and casual actor David Prowse accepted the part of George Lucas's black-clad villain Darth Vader in a strange sci-fi movie, he had no idea he was playing a part that would become one of the most memorable characters in pop culture history. However, because of a falling-out between Lucasfilm and the man behind the bodysuit (and mask), Prowse's connection to the Star Wars universe has become irreparably fractured.

Throughout the production of the trilogy, Prowse's presence on-set was a source of irritation for Lucas. Mostly, this irritation centered on reasons including, but not limited to, leaked plot details. In the years since, anti-Lucas documentaries and official Star Wars celebrations have become points of contention. The official braintrust has made Prowse fully aware that he is unwelcome within Lucasfilm's orbit. Even in his golden years, Prowse made a living from touring the fan circuit, but Lucasfilm has made that difficult, banning the actor from attending the most high-profile official events, including Star Wars Celebration and Disney Star Wars Weekends. The ban is the culmination of decades' worth of escalating resentment on both sides.

  • Prowse Gave Away The Twist Ending Of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ Two Years Early

    Prowse Gave Away The Twist Ending Of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ Two Years Early
    Photo: The Empire Strikes Back / 20th Century Fox

    The final script for The Empire Strikes Back wasn't even completed when David Prowse spoiled the twist ending at UC Berkeley. In 1978, two years prior to the film hitting theaters, Prowse revealed what ultimately happens when Vader and Luke become locked in a climactic lightsaber duel. In the 1980 film, Luke painfully discovers the true identity of his father.

    After the Berkeley incident, George Lucas began taking more extreme security precautions, producing multiple fake scripts and sometimes giving actors their lines just minutes before filming.

  • He Was Incorrectly Blamed For Another Leak About Darth Vader’s End

    He Was Incorrectly Blamed For Another Leak About Darth Vader’s End
    Photo: Return of the Jedi / 20th Century Fox

    For David Prowse, 1982 was the year that may have gotten him indefinitely ostracized from the Star Wars franchise. UK tabloid the Daily Mail received a leak about Darth Vader's demise and, under the guise of a bodybuilding interview, set up a surprise Star Wars-centric chat with Prowse. Halfway through the interview, the reporter surprised Prowse with the information that Vader would be unmasked. But behind the mask would be the face of actor Sebastian Shaw, rather than Prowse.

    When the press ran the interview the next day, the headline boomed, "Darth Vader to be killed off in the next movie, in an interview with David Prowse." The studio improperly blamed the leak on Prowse himself.

  • Prowse Was Nearly Completely Replaced For The End Of 'Return of the Jedi' 

    Prowse Was Nearly Completely Replaced For The End Of 'Return of the Jedi' 
    Photo: Return of the Jedi / 20th Century Fox

    When the tabloid leaked the end of Darth Vader with Prowse's name attached, the Vader actor was basically sidelined. A stunt double named Bob Anderson took over for many of Vader's lightsaber battle sequences in Return of the Jedi, including the majority of the fight scenes between Luke and Vader.

    That was in addition to Prowse being replaced in Vader's final scene, when his mask is removed and his true face is finally revealed. It was Sebastian Shaw under the mask for the grand reveal, despite Prowse reportedly being promised he would be appearing onscreen in the scene in question.

  • He And George Lucas Haven’t Spoken Since 1983

    When Return of the Jedi wrapped up, so did whatever ties Lucas and Prowse shared. Lucas hasn't reached out to or spoken to Prowse since 1983.

    Lucasfilm presumably continues to limit Prowse's ability to capitalize on his claim to fame. There has been no apparent willingness to patch things up, as Lucas has seemingly gone to great lengths to keep the actor at a distance.