Darth Vader

[I met Dave Prowse, the actor inside Darth Vader, for a feature on the re-release of Star Wars in 1997 – I met C-3PO, aka Anthony Daniels, for the same piece, which I’ve already posted here. Prowse was a very different story to Daniels. Daniels still maintains good relations with Lucasfilm, and appeared in all six Star Wars films. Prowse was accused of leaking stories to the press, and by the filming of Return Of The Jedi, his stunt double was being used for many of his scenes. He had quite clearly been outcast from Lucasfilm. And yet, amazingly, Prowse still thought he had a chance of being cast in the prequels, which when we met had yet to begin filming.

At the time, Prowse ran a gym at 12 Marshalsea Road in Bermondsey. I met him there, and we sat in a cramped office, bodybuilding posters on the wall, a gym of old, for weightlifting only. Prowse let it all spill out, which was lucky. Listening to the tape now, there’s so many times I wished I’d asked him something direct: how he felt about his voice not being used; had he actually leaked stories to the press? I was young at the time, and very green. But I let him talk, and he said some pertinent stuff – suddenly he’d be talking about Stanley Kubrick, suddenly he’d be talking about Sam Fox. Prowse had a strong Bristol accent, his pitch was quite high. I remember finding the experience quite sad. Here’s everything he said.]

DP: It was quite funny actually because I was, do you know what, I haven’t had one request to do a personal appearance or a go to a premiere or anything to do with the re-release of Star Wars. Not one.

CP: Really

And then when I was in Oaklahoma they said, we’re having a pre-showing of the film, is there any chance of you coming. The convention organiser said, no he’s too busy. So that was it.

So have you seen 

No I haven’t seen the new one. No no, I haven’t seen it. I was with some friends in South Africa and their seven year old daughter, she’d never seen the film, so we went and got the video out the other night, we all sat down and watched Star Wars. It was lovely seeing it with a kid who’d never seen it before. And she was so excited about it

Did she know it was you?

Oh yes, yes

Was she scared?

No, no not, well when it was all over all she wanted to do was play light saber fights. We all go [he makes the light saber sound], making all the noises, you know.

I never saw it in cinemas

I didn’t ask how old you are


23. so you’d only have been three. hardly been able to comprehend what it was all about.

My flatmate went to see it. It was the first film she saw, when she was four. We didn’t go to the cinema that much as a family. I remember it mainly from the playground.

[he puts on children’s voices] “I want to be Luke. I want to be Darth.” When Star Wars came out, I was also the Green Cross Code Man, from the government safety,

Which I remember you most as.

But I was going round all the schools doing talks for the kids. I went to something like 2000 schools in my career as the Green Cross Code Man. The thing that came out all the time was that the kids really knew that this guy stood up there in Green Cross Code suit was really Darth Vader. He was was really Darth Vader, not the road safety guy. I always say Darth Vader was responsible for helping me, not just the campaign, save something like 20,000 lives a year. Road accident figures while I was doing it went down from over 40,000 a year to less than 20,000 a year which was a tremendous, a tremendous amount of lives being saved. I did it all over the world, it was  a tremendous campaign, best job I’ve ever had. I much preferred it to doing Star Wars.

The number of people I told I was coming to interview you they said, oh I met him at school

Somebody asked me if I would present an award at some bodybuilding show. and I thought I really don’t like bodybuilding shows, not very much, all the drugs and everything else and the way people act in bodybuilding shows

Was it in america?

No over here, over here. Lewisham Town Hall. And I said no, I really don’t want to do it, I’m not really very keen, and he said it’s a shame because Sam Fox is going to be your co-presenter, you see. Sam Fox! I’d never met Sam Fox before. I said, count me in. So anyway we went to the show and presented these awards and the show was as bad as I expected it to be, and when it was all over we went down to the green room, and we were all having a drink, and Sam Fox came up to me and said, oh we’ve met before haven’t we. and I said no, i think I’d remember if I met you, like. No no, you came to my school when you were the Green Cross Code Man.

Another friend said you were making an appearance somewhere and she skived off and went and got your autograph. she’d never told anybody. I was the first person she’d ever told.

Yeah. [he’s quiet for a moment]. I never did any appearances as Darth Vader. I did about three. that was at the very beginning when Star Wars first came out. But it became sort of painfully obvious that they could dress up any big guy in the black suit and nobody would know the difference if it was Dave Prowse or Fred Bloggs.

What really pissed me off actually was I didn’t do the big ones. When Star Wars won the Oscar for the best costumes, instead of asking me to be Darth Vader when they paraded Darth Vader on stage in the big auditorium in Hollywood, they just dressed up somebody else. Put him in the suit and dressed him up. And then also one of the major honours in the business is that you do your footprinting ceremony outside Mann’s Chinese Theater. And there’s literally hundreds and hundreds of stars. And they wanted the Star Wars people. And so they wanted R2D2, I think it was C-3PO, and me. And so they flew C3PO over, they took their R2D robot, and they dressed up someone else [as Darth Vader] in Los Angeles to go and stick his feet in the concrete. That annoyed me intensely. People go and look at it now and they come back and say, oh I saw Darth Vader’s footprints, I knew damn well they weren’t yours, know what your feet are like.

I think I was the third most experienced actor on the movie before Star Wars came along. I had a career spanning back ten years before Star Wars came along. I did all the Frankenstein movies, A Clockwork Orange

What did you do in Clockwork Orange?

I played Julian, who was the bodyguard to the writer. There’s a big famous scene where I carry him downs the stairs in his wheelchair. But after I did Clockwork Orange I suddenly became Dave Prowse, Actor. From being Dave Prowse, Villain and Monster, I suddenly became Dave Prows,e Actor, and people were ringing me up, and I’d say, how did you know of me. At that time it was, I was still, although I’d been in the business for ten years, I’d done loads and loads of different things they were all relatively non -entity things, like playing monsters and creatures and villains. You’d go and do a couple of days on Carry On Henry for instance, nobody sees you. You do Confessions Of A Window Cleaner, Confessions Of A Driving Instructor, and all these sorts of things, you don’t get any kudos for.

And all of a sudden, Clockwork Orange comes along, the mere fact that I’d worked for Stanley Kubrick established me as an actor. From then on I went into Shakespeare’s As You Like It, I had a co-lead in a BBC serial called The Rose Medallion with Robert Beatty, I’ve done some fantastic work. I even had a starring role straight after Star Wars finished. I went into Space 1999, “starring Dave Prowse”. It was wonderful. I’ve made it at last. All due to Clockwork Orange.

Star Wars, as far as getting work, I’ve never really found I’ve got much work form the fact that I was Darth Vader. I was very very busy anyway, I couldn’t have coped with it if I had, because at the same time as I did Star Wars, I became the Green Cross Code Man. In fact I had to get the week off from Star Wars to go and do three Green Cross Code commercials. I had to go on my hands and knees to George [Lucas], “excuse me george, can I have a week off to do a road safety campaign”. He was very good about it, and understanding. I went off to do the three television commercials. And then the commercials came out at the end of the year, that was before Star Wars came out, and they were hugely successful, and nobody knew anything at that time about Darth Vader.

Did you want to be an actor

No no. What I originally. My life’s ambition was to be Mr. Universe. That was, when I left school, I’d already got into the body building thing. I was really interested in body building. I really became besotted with it. all I wanted to do was train, lift weights, and things like that. I started off around 11 stone and 6 foot 5, quite tall and skinny, and all of a sudden, as I was training, I started to get to get heavier and a big, bigger. Then I started entering junior physique competitions. That was up to the age of 18. Then as I said I started to get bigger and bigger. I started 1951, went on, and the culmination of my body building career was I entered the Mr Universe competition in 1960. In 9 years, I went from 150 pounds up to 240 pounds. I was the biggest competitor they’d ever had at the Mr. Universe contest. And then at the Mr Universe contest they disappointed me in that they turned around and said because I have misshapen feet, I’ve got hammer toes and things like that, they said you’ll never win Mr. Universe contest because you’ve got ugly feet. So I thought, oh sod that then, pack up the bodybuilding. If that’s what bodybuilding is all about, if that’s what Mr Universe is all about, I’ll pack it up.

I was getting quite strong, so I decided then to take up weightlifting. and then within 18 months of taking it up I became the British Heavyweight Weightlifting Champion. I was British Champion 1962, 63, 64. I did the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. I did the Royal Championships in Budapest, won all sorts in the three years I was doing it. And then the Weightlifting Association turned around to me, this was in 1964, they said, we haven’t selected you for Tokyo [for the Olympics]. We haven’t got any money. All these years of training to get to the Olympic Games, and they’ve decided they haven’t got any money. And they said also really if you want to be any good at weightlifting, you need to be a lot bigger. I said, hang on, I’m 20 stone. 20 stone and 6 foot 7. How much bigger do you want me to be? We think you ought to go up to 26 stone, which is about nearly 400 pounds. I said, you must be joking. They said, you can go on the steroids, go on the drugs and all that business. This was being recommended by the Weightlifting Association. And I said, no I don’t want to go on them, no I don’t want to be 400 pounds, walking around like some huge great gorilla. So I just decided to pack it in. I just decided to turn professional and see what happened. And so I then formed an act. I used to call myself Britain’s Strongest Man. I used to tour around giving exhibitions of strength at all the physical culture shows and garden fetes and things.

And then I opened my own gymnasium here, and I went into professional Highland Games as well, I started doing that, went to Scotland, got third place in the World Caber Tossing Championship. From there I got sponsored by McVities Biscuits to give exhibitions of caber tossing at British export events throughout the world. I had three good years of dressing up as a Scotsman, masquerading as a Scotsman, giving exhibitions of caber tossing, and then of the showbiz thing started by then. I came into showbusiness through a play called Don’t Let The Summertime in 1965, and then I started doing all sorts of television commercials after that. Then the first film came along, that was Casino Royale, I played Frankenstein in it opposite Woody Allen, David Niven, Peter Sellers.

Then things just snowballed. In the seventies I did the horror Frankenstein, became the Hammer Frankenstein, I got the honour of being the only person to play the Hammer Frankenstien twice, and I went out to barbados to do a film for Russ Meyer called Black Snake, terrible movie, then eventually Clockwork Orange, that was the major break, Clockwork Orange for me, lots and lots of work. All the major comedy series, Kenneth Williams show, Dick Emery show, The Goodies, I done them all, I did everything. In fact there was a convention organised in America called Cult TV. They sent me the leaflet, because there were lots of programmes I was in and had memories of. I rang up and said, any chance I come and guest at your convention here, and they said no. No we don’t think you’re really well enough known. This was only about two or three years ago. And I said what you do mean, not well enough known? You’ve got 15 programmes down here that you’re featuring, would you believe, I feature in 11 of them. You tell me I’m not well enough known?

You seem to always be finding something else.

i think i’m the eternal optimist. I don’t let anything get me down. If things aren’t going right, if things aren’t exactly as they should be, I think, well sod that, pack it in, do something else, go off on a different tangent. It’s always been that way.

So you’ve never been worried at all about anything?

No no, not at all. Well saying I’ve never been worried, I didn’t have a very nice association with Lucasfilm on the third movie [Return Of The Jedi]. They got it into their heads that somebody on the film was giving away information to the press, and unfortunately i got accused of it, and so I virtually had no association with Lucasfilm right from then onwards, which hasn’t worried me that much, because I just carried on and done my own thing, but I would have liked a much happier association with Lucasfilm. It would have been nice to have done things with Lucasfilm’s blessing rather than Lucasfilm sort of watching every move that I make.

Is that even now?

Yeah, to a certain extent, yeah. But things are a lot more positive now. Tomorrow i should be on the Oprah Winfrey show. They rang me up while I was away and said could you do the Oprah Winfrey show and I said when is it, the day you fly to America, next Thursday, and so I said, no, sorry, I can’t do it because number one I’m supposed to be doing the Big Breakfast show tomorrow morning, so I’m doing the Big Breakfast show then I’m flying to San Francisco, I’m doing three shows in San Francisco over the weekend and I said I can’t make it to LA, not to do the Oprah Winfrey show. so I came back early this morning and phoned up about the Big Breakfast show, they said, oh no we’re not doing that, we cancelled it. So now I’m not doing the Big Breakfast show, but I’m still going to San Francisco, unless something crops up today where they can get me from San Franciso to LA and back to Sacramento tomorrow, I don’t know.

How did you meet George Lucas

Through a Clockwork Orange. My agent called me up, this was in christmas 1975, my agent called me up. There’s a man in town called George Lucas. He’s doing a film called Star Wars and he’d very much like to have a word with you, have a chat with you about the film. They said can you go to the 20th Century Fox offices in Soho Square. After christmas. So I made the appointment, and when I see him it was like me looking at you, it was like looking at a young student. And what he said to me was that he was doing this film called Star Wars. It’s a space fantasy movie and he said I’d like to offer you one of two parts in the movie. I thought, this is good, being offered two parts or one of two parts. I said how did you know of me? He said, Clockwork Orange. If you’re good enough for Stanley Kubrick, you’re good enough for me. I said, what are the two parts? He said, well the first part is a character called Chewbacca. I said, what the hell’s Chewbacca. He said, well its like a hairy gorilla that goes through the film on the side of the goodies. I thought, oh, another of these masked monster parts. no I don’t like the sound of that to be honest with you. What’s the other one? He said, well the other one is the big villain of the film, character called Darth Vader. And I said, don’t say any more, I’ll have villain’s part thank you very much. And he said, well tell me for why, and I said, well if you think back on all the movies you’ve ever seen where there are goodies and baddies, I said you always remember the baddies. He said, I think you’ve made a very wise decision, because nobody will ever forget Darth Vader. Here we are 20 years later, it looks like Darth Vader is going to go on for years to come.

Because I mean we’re already getting ready to start filming the next three, they’re already in pre-production at Leavesden studios in Watford, I heard a whisper that they’re going to start filming with the actors from September onwards, and Darth Vader’s obviously got to come into Episode Three, he obviously ends up in Episode Four, which was Star Wars. Whether he’ll be in Episode Two I don’t know, he might possibly end up in Two as well, depends how the trilogy progresses [Darth Vader only appears in the closing moments of Episode Three: Revenge Of The Sith]. So I could be working quite a lot longer. The unfortunate thing is is that the first Star Wars movie is not slated til 1999, the second one in 2001, the third one in 2003, so got to wait til at least 2001 before you see Darth Vader on the screen again. It’d be nice, it’d be nice if it comes off, I’d love to do it.

Are you appearing in the films?


Are you appearing in the films.

Well no yeah. I’d love to do it, if asked, I mean it’s a question of waiting to be asked. Of course, the longer time goes on, the older one gets. I’d have loved to have played Anakin Skywalker. That was a real dirty move on their part as it were. I didn’t appreciate that very much. When they killed Darth Vader off without telling me, and it was all done so I wouldn’t know what was going on in the movie


Yeah yeah. They did it in another studio miles away from where I was working, with another actor called Sebastian Shaw

That was the 

The dying scene yeah. People turn around to me and say what was the reason for it, I jokingly say I was too young and good looking for the role of the dying Darth Vader. Um but basically the reason is they didn’t want me to get into too strong a negotiating position, or possibly they didn’t want me to be Anakin Skywalker in the previous movies. They obviously knew what they were going to do, George has had some ideas which way the trilogy’s going to go, because it’s going to be three trilogies all told. So he’s obviously knows what he wants to do with it, for some reason didn’t want me to be seen as Anakin Skywalker. But I think I joke about it, but I think it was they didn’t want me to get in too strong a negotiating position for future movies. But I would have loved to have done Anakin Skywalker. I would still like to do it, if it was on offer. I’d love to do it.

When you first saw the script, did you think

I only ever saw one script. and that was Star Wars. I never saw the script for the second or the third. They just gave us our pages. We had no idea where all my pages fitted in, had no idea basically what the action was or anything. It was a ridiculous way of working, but that‘s the way they wanted it. They got paranoid about secrecy, and they really were paranoid about secrecy. At one stage I took my daughter, who was seven at the time, she wanted to meet Mark Hamill, so I took her up to the studio to meet Mark Hamill, and she had with her one of these old throwaway cameras, as she wanted her picture taken with Mark, bring your camera with you, i’ll introduce you to mark, get your picture taken. Production people came and snatched the camera away from me. No pictures no pictures. And on Return of the Jedi, I didn’t see a copy of the script at all.

Star Wars we had a script for. It made quite interesting reading, although it took a hell of a lot of imagination. And even when we were doing it I mean we had no idea what we were into. You would stand against a blank wall they would cover with blue screen, they would say, well this is the planet Alderaan blowing up, and you’d all stand there. It was alright for me, I was in the mask. I could be laughing my head off like you know, I didn’t have to register too much emotional dismay.

Did you think it’d be any good?

No. the only thing you could tell, number one well Sir Alec Guinness isn’t going into this for nothing. Peter Cushing was in it, that was number two. You could see a tremendous amount of money was being spent on it, that was the giveaway, the sets, they’d taken over the whole studio, so twelve or thirteen lots, at Elstree, they went in to Shepperton as well, you could just see there was lots of money being spent. When you wee there working you could wander round, have a look around. at your leisure if you weren’t working, it was quite nice.

And then there were some great technicians, George Lucas was a technician’s director. He’s never had much rapport with actors. He never spoke to me once through the whole movie, not as far as acting was concerned or what he wanted. I mean right at the very beginning, he said to me something to do with, any idea what you’re going to do with Darth Vader, how are you going to do it. I said, I’m going to move in such a way that everybody’s subservient to me, body movements and the speed of walking. Eventually they had to slow me down, they said I was walking too fast the camera couldn’t keep up with me. George was very much a technical director, same as Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick has absolutely no regard to actors whatsoever.  Actors are a necessary appendage that you have to have. I think Lucas thinks the same way, although there was a nice relationship between Luke and Hans, and Wookie and the two guys and the girl, also the relationship between Peter Cushing and myself was good, good strong relationship, two good villains together as it were.

It was very nice and everyone was very social. I could sit there and Sir Alec Guinness, what we used to do, we used to practice for the fight, then we used to go next door with a pair of sticks, practice our moves, same with Mark Hamill as well, used to go and practice

Was it hard to get light sabers to be

The light sabers were terrible things. They had what they thought would be a light saber to start with, which was like a double handled flashlight. They took out the bulb and the reflector and put in a very fast revolving motor, and then into the motor they put in a piece of carbon fibre rod coated with reflective tape, so that when you actually switched it on it sort of revolved around very very fast, and when you shone lights at it, it reflected the light it was terrific, but of course it was four foot long, like a long piece of stick. Every time I hit Obi Wan Kanobi the thing used to break. We used to end up picking the pieces off the floor all the time. They were totally useless. What they did in the finish was just have the handle and a long piece of carbon rod coming out which never revolved. It was just like kids in the back garden. People come up to me now, and say what were the light sabers like. I say well if you imagine two kids in the back garden fighting with a stick, that’s what we were doing. Everything you see is all hand painted in, frame by frame, the glow and the buzz is put on after

But you had something there rather than

Oh yeah, we had a handle with a bit of carbon rod, four foot rod. I think you see there’s a picture of Mark Hamill and he’s leaning on his light saber, it gives you some idea.

No we had no idea what we were into. Half the time, things weren’t ready, a lot of us thought we were just doing a load of rubbish. But I mean the only thing you could see was that it was expensive rubbish. And then the film was finished and they all raced back to America, because they couldn’t get all the special effects done here they wanted. And all the way through the film I kept on saying to George, what are you going to do about the voice of Darth Vader, because everything I say is coming through the mask and isn’t really audible, not for reproduction purposes. All the other actors can hear me, but it’s not really good enough for reproduction. He kept on saying, oh don’t worry, we’ll go into the studio and re-do all your lines. And so all the way through the movie I thought they were going to use my voice. And then what happened was they got to the end of the movie, raced back to america, and when they were in america, the just decided they didn’t want Darth Vader with an English accent. And that was it.

Then of course the film came out in America in May, and it took off like wildfire, millions of people queueing all night to see the movie, queueing for days on end, and cinema queues for blocks and blocks, so we had all this hype, all the publicity, major box office hit, but we actually didn’t see the movie until August. The very first showing we had here was a showing for all the cast and crew who worked on the movie, like a bit of a press showing as well. And it was really quite strange because nobody seemed to want to do anything, no premieres, no launches, and although it was this huge hype in america, they still didn’t want to do anything over here.

And that was quite strange because we saw it in August, I remember my eldest boy when we saw it, he was 10 at the time, he’d never been very impressed with anything I’d ever done, I remember him standing up saying, cor Dad, we’ve got to see that again. Well when it comes on again I’ll get some seats we’ll all go and see it again. When they announced it was coming out, I left it right til the very last minute, and I rang up the cinema, I think it was showing at the Tottenham Court Road. I rang them up and said, excuse me, my name’s Dave Prowse. I’m the actor who played Darth Vader in this movie, I’d like to bring my wife and three children to see the movie, can you let me have some seats. She said, I’m sorry, we’re full for the next three weeks. I said, I’m sorry, I was the actor who played Darth Vader in the movie. I’d very much like five seats. They said no, we can’t let you have it. I said, what do you mean, she said we’re full, we’re full for the next three weeks, I can’t let you have any til then. I said, I’ll have them for then. She said that’ll be £25. I said, pardon. She said, you have to pay. I said you’re joking, I’m in the movie, I’m in the bloody thing like, she said no freebies or anything like this, so I had to pay for the tickets. So eventually the big day comes around, I get to the cinema, they’ve only got in touch with all the press to let everybody know that I was coming, and all the press were lined up waiting to see me and my family, I thought, you bastard. I said to the press, little do you know I’ve had to wait three weeks and also had to pay for these tickets tonight. [he sighs]

was it a shock to see it and it be good? I was reading somewhere of George Lucas having a private screening for Martin Scorcese, people like that, and they didn’t like it

Stanley Kubrick was telling me, Stanley Kubrick actually handled the projection at the very first showing of 2001 in America. He was in the projection room in all of it. He couldn’t get over the fact that someone actually got up and walked out in the first sequence. The very first sequence. He said it really pissed him off, that somebody could actually get up and walk out in the middle of the very first sequence. Oh god.

Was the filming for the second one completely different

Well Irvin Kershner was the director and he is an actor’s director and he was a lovely guy to work with, very nice to the actors, and he’d want to sit down with you and talk about your part, what your motivation was, how you were going to play it, where you’d been before and where you were going to, a nice guy. He also came up and said this is going to be the thinking man’s Darth Vader. We’re going to slow you up, and then he wanted everything to be polished all the time, everything had to be pristine, whereas George mainly couldn’t care less if the helmet was dusty, things like that, but Irwin was a stickler for shining and.

I personally think its a much better film. I love the second one.

Was the atmosphere different

The fact that we’d done so well on the first one, it was like going into the second one knowing it was a huge success, the only thing was they were even more paranoid about security, that was the worst thing that was happening, it wasn’t such a, working with Kershner was quite a happy film to work on, but it was still had this overall pervading atmosphere of everybody was frightened to say anything, frightened to give away anything mustn’t say anything to anybody, was strange.

They were trying to cultivate Mark Hamill to be the big star,  but very quickly it became obvious that Darth Vader was the big star of the movie, but then it was a problem because basically they had no control over [me], at least they could have if they wanted to, but they were obviously trying to preserve the anonymity of Darth Vader for a long period. I’ve had 20 years of lack of publicity. You know, for instance when Empire Strikes Back came out, they never issued one article of publicity about myself or Darth Vader in the publicity kit, everybody else was in it. they said, oh sorry they made a mistake. I said, oh yeah.

Were you allowed to do interviews

Yeah I was allowed to do those sorts of things. But they would never ever involve me. They were still trying to preserve this anonymity. Darth Vader was their character and they didn’t want me usurping their territory as it were, or getting anything out of it that I shouldn’t or shouldn’t have.

But people are fanatical. Still are. They’re more fanatical now. I met a guy in Carlisle, I was at a school and he waited for me outside the school. He said would you do me a favour and come to my house. I’d just like you to come to my house and see what I’ve done. I went to his house and his whole house all decorated everything all Star Wars, it had every Star Wars toy, Darth Vader wallpaper, Darth Vader sheets on his bed, he was thrilled to bits that I took the time to go to his house to look at his bits.

Are you happy with the changes they’ve made [George Lucas had added some digitised characters to the re-release of A New Hope, which when we met hadn’t been released yet in the UK]

Well I haven’t seen it. As far as I know there’s little extra gone into Star Wars. I’ll probably go and see it in America, I’ve got some spare time while I’m in america. I’m also staying at San Raphael, I might even get to Lucasfilm yet, I might get an invite to go. Let him know that I’m there, because I’m right on his home territory. He’s got Skywalker ranch.

I didn’t mind about the changes at all,

you’ve seen it

Yeah they had a press screening.

Yeah I’m looking forward to seeing it. It wasn’t showing in South Africa.

I’m not a great science fiction lover to be honest. I can’t sit down and read a science fiction book. Never read a sci-fi book in my life. All these sci-fi authors and artists all give me their books, put them on the shelf, they never came down.

You’re so pragmatic about it all

Darth Vader is very strange. Whenever I’ve worked in the film business, I avidly wait for it to come up on screen and I look at it very critically, to see what my voice is like, to see if the bristol accent comes out, I like to see what my physique looks like if I’m stripped off, I’m very critical of the acting, how i act. With Darth Vader I never ever think, that that’s me inside that suit. Its quite strange. I never look at it as me, I don’t think of it as me. I know it is me inside the suit.

Do you look at it and remember when scenes were shot

No, not really. Some things stand out. The gantry scene for instance when I chopped Luke’s hand off, or the freezing chamber scenes they were all interesting to do. A lot of work went into that. And also when I threw the Emperor off the balcony, that was memorable scene. I got my comeuppance on the production people on that scene. That really pleased me no end.

What because you got to do it

You see what happened, they started to try and use my stuntman for most of the work, because of this problem, they thought I was giving away information to the press. They tried to use me as little as possible, so they were using my stuntman for everything. On monday morning I’m in there, half-dressed up in my Darth Vader outfit, and I see them dressing up my stuntman again and I said excuse me, what are you getting dressed up for? He said, oh this is the scene where the Emperor gets thrown off the balcony. I said oh, are you going to do it? he said oh yeah, they’re going to do it with the Emperor on wires. They’ll put the emperor on wires, haul him up in the air, get under him and throw him off the balcony.

I watched them do this. And every time they hauled him up and lowered the emperor down on him, he couldn’t hold him. There was all sorts of terrible problems going on. They did two days of it. So the next thing they decided was to get in a see-saw. The Emperor stands on the bottom end of the see-saw, someone else jumps on the other end and my stuntman is meant to catch him, oh you’ve never seen such a sight in your life these two guys falling all over the place. In the finish I called Richard Marquand [director of Return Of The Jedi] over, this was on the Friday, they were doing this Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, on the Friday afternoon. I said Richard, what are you trying to do, because he hadn’t spoken to me all week. And he said, we’re trying to throw the Emperor off the balcony. I said, well it’s easy. He said, what do you mean? I said, well I’ll pick him up, put him on my shoulder, put him above my head and then throw him off the balcony, as easy as that. He said, can you do that? I said of course I can, I’m a weightlifter, a strongman like. He said, oh alright, first thing monday morning. So first thing monday morning I got the Emperor, well his stuntman, leaned him over, held him up like that, took one step forward and threw him off the balcony. We did it. We did it in about fifteen minutes flat. What it must have cost them that previous week. I felt like turning round and saying thank you very much, you should of asked me in the first place. Little things like that you remember.