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In the original Star Wars movies (IV, V, and VI) three actors ended up playing Darth Vader. David Prowse was the actual physical body for the most part, James Earl Jones was used for the voice, and in Return of the Jedi when the helmet was taken off he was played by Sebastian Shaw (who was also one of the "ghosts" at the end of the movie originally but was edited out and replaced by Hayden Christensen).

So my question is, why was the decision made to have so many people play one character in the original movies? Did Prowse just not have the right voice or look right (except for his height)? Was Sebastian Shaw not tall enough?

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And don't forget Bob Anderson who did all Vader's lightsaber fighting. –  DavRob60 May 11 '12 at 18:12
    
Dave Prowse was great but his voice wouldn't fit Darth Vader- wouldn't be as intimidating. David Prowse's body language and James Earl Jones's voice joined together to make an amazing villain. Sebastian Shaw? I get that they wanted to make him look like an older guy, but Prowse was robbed of having his face shown. I understand Shaw being their for the unmasked scene, but Prowse should have been the ghost. He actually resembles an older Hayden Christensen and would have been perfect as an unmasked Anakin. I like Shaw, Prowse, and Christensen, but in a perfect would Christensen would have had hi –  user6614 Nov 2 '13 at 23:20
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Just for fun, here is a list of all the people who portrayed Vader in RotJ: Dave Prowse, James Earl Jones, Sebastian Shaw, Bob Anderson, Craig Baron and Howard Cole. –  Nobby Nov 3 '13 at 2:07
    
It seems pretty clear that Lucas chose actors that fit particular characteristics of the role. Since it was an anonymous guy behind the mask, he was free to combine multiple actors. –  Jeff-Inventor ChromeOS Aug 13 at 1:37
    
Mr Mayhew did not voice Chewbacca either.... –  CGCampbell Aug 13 at 14:32

1 Answer 1

up vote 25 down vote accepted

David Prowse definitely did not have the right voice. He is from Bristol in the UK, and has a Bristolian accent, what would be described as in the UK as a 'west country accent'. To many ears this sounds a little parochial - most people would think this more the accent for a farmer than a galactic enforcer for the Emperor, however unfair that comparison might be. However David Prowse was a body-builder, had acting experience so he had the right look at 6 foot 6 inches tall. He was also from the UK where many of the scenes involving Vader were made.

James Earl Jones is to a degree the opposite - he has an amazing voice, and although a more accomplished actor than Prowse, does not have the right bodybuilder physical presence and is (only) 6 foot 2 inches tall.

Finally, why Sebastian Shaw and not Prowse for the final scene with Vader? They may have thought that Prowse, only in his late 40's, might look a little too young to be Luke's father, and the accent would have been too striking a difference to the 'in helmet' voice. Of course with the later casting of Hayden Christensen as the young Anakin, the age would have been about right.

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youtube.com/watch?v=YSm9DDxQv8E (David Prowse doing Vader's dialogue) –  Dean May 11 '12 at 19:10
    
@Dean - thanks for the addition. I was going to find something like that, but work got in the way! –  iandotkelly May 11 '12 at 20:09

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