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, 2012 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, 2013 at 23:20
  • 3
    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, 2013 at 2:07
  • 2
    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. Aug 13, 2014 at 1:37
  • Mr Mayhew did not voice Chewbacca either....
    – CGCampbell
    Aug 13, 2014 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


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, 2012 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, 2012 at 20:09

its cause you couldn't hear David voice on the recording because of the head gear, so they had to dub it over and he wasn't about to do it, or that is what I was always lead to believe.

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    This isn't right at all. They never intended to use Prowse as the voice of Darth Vader, which is something that's led to several points of contention between him and Lucas, with Lucas finally banning Prowse from any and all official Star Wars fan conventions in 2010, saying Prowse had, "Burned too many bridges." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Prowse#Darth_Vader
    – MattD
    Jan 19, 2015 at 14:42
  • Okay, so I just looked at that Wikipedia link and saw those pictures of David Prowse for the first time in I can't remember how long... In that screenshot from The Champions, doesn't he look like a buff Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson)? LOL Sep 17, 2015 at 16:23
  • They could have dubbed it with him after the fact, a common thing. Or wired the suit with a mic.
    – cde
    Jun 10, 2016 at 16:28

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