Everybody knows that David Prowse played Darth Vader in the old Star Wars episodes. He was a weightlifting champion and a bodybuilder.

Does anybody know who and why actually chose him to play this important role?

image of David Prowse as Darth Vader

3 Answers 3


In 1971, Stanley Kubrick cast him as Julian, the bodyguard of Mr. Alexander for A Clockwork Orange. And when such a great director casts you, it is a big thing. So for Star Wars, he did not even have an audition, George Lucas wanted him to have a role.

David Prowse as Julian carrying Malcom McDowell
David Prowse as Julian carrying Malcom McDowell in a Clockwork Orange

David Prowse says:

George Lucas was casting about and had heard favourable things about my work in Clockwork Orange and asked me to come in, which of course I did even though no one knew what the film was about!

It is also said that George Lucas gave him a choice whether he wants to play Chewbacca or Darth Vader.

  • 3
    Of course, that being said, the two roles he was given a choice of arguably had the similarities of not actually requiring a great actor as they were dubbed over, and entirely costumed. They also had the similarity of being unusually tall. One might be forgiven for thinking that height may have had more to do with the casting than acting ability.
    – Beska
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 16:58

I don't know who chose him, probably a combination of the casting director and Lucas.

David Prowse was tall and imposing and the movie sets that the character appears in were shot in the UK, and he is English.

He did a series of short road-safety 'adverts' in the UK in the 70's - he was the "Green Cross Code Man" - where he had to wear a super-hero costume, stand tall, make obvious body-movements and gestures to teach kids to cross the road. Perhaps this role, whilst not 'serious acting' as some people would see it, showed Lucas that he had the skills to carry out the role of the expressionless Vader.

Green Cross Code Man

As for your 'important role' point, it was clear from the outset that they always planned to dub another voice onto the character. David Prowse has a regional west-country accent, more in keeping with a farmer than a galactic overlord. What they needed from him was someone with that physical presence, with some acting experience, and who would not be too expensive.

  • I know that Lucas intended to dub someone else's voice, and he did so. Still, in acting, movement and gestures are just as important as voice. I am sure there were lots of tall and imposing people in the UK :).
    – kapa
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 21:53
  • @bazmegakapa - fair point. I've also added to the question the main other role that he played in UK TV - which may have caught Lucas's eye.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 22:00
  • I've heard that Prowse did not, in fact, know that he would be dubbed over, and was surprised when he discovered it. No memory offhand of where I heard this though, so take it with a grain of salt.
    – Beska
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 16:59
  • @Beska I heard that too, and I am sure that it was from a DP interview - but I have no doubt that Lucas never intended to use his voice.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 18:49
  • @Beska - I remember, from around that time, stories that Prowse was not pleased by the decision to dub in a voice for Vader. Asketh, and Google shall giveth: thesun.co.uk/archives/news/858204/… Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 18:25

All they needed was a tall actor.

Since his face would not be seen, behind Vader's mask, and his character's voice would be dubbed by another actor, all that was required was height.

Several actors were perfectly qualified for the part. Dave Prowse was well known in the British film industry, because of his role in Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange', which was entirely filmed in England, and from his role as the Green Cross Code man in TV and cinema road safety adverts, filmed on behalf of the Central Office of Information, a public body.

He had played a lot of stunt work in films and on tv, including science fiction, having had a role in 'Doctor Who', in 1972, as the Minotaur in the serial 'The Time Monster', a role in which he also wore a face mask and had no dialogue.

Also in contention was the 7-foot-tall Richard Keil, who, also in 1977, was cast in the Bond film 'The Spy Who Loved Me', which was made in studios in England and on location in Egypt. Keil played 'Jaws', the enormously tall professional assassin, a role that he later repeated in a second Bond film, 'Moonraker', in 1979. Again, it was a part without any dialogue.

One might bear in mind also Peter Mayhew, who was cast in 'Star Wars' as Chewbacca, who also had the requisite characteristics of height and an ability to act despite being entirely concealed within a costume and mask.

So, the casting of Dave Prowse as Darth Vader was not entirely a forgone conclusion. There were other tall actors suitable for the part, who were working in England in 1977.

  • Ted Cassidy comes to mind as well, although his voice might have been too well-known.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 23:04

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