There are many people who would consider a career at the
pinnacle of world-class sport enough. Similarly, there are
many people who would consider a movie career working with
some of the greatest performers and directors of the last
40 years as a full and privileged life. Not so Dave Prowse.
As a world class weightlifter and the original Darth Vader,
Dave has had the distinct honour of doing both in his storied
career. Yet, it is his role as the Green Cross Code Man of
which he is most proud. The campaign is credited with saving
the lives of many young children during the 1970s and 1980s,
and which ultimately earned Dave his MBE...
I want to start this review by admitting that when I heard
that Dave Prowse's autobiography was being released on MP3
CD, with a running time of 540 minutes, I was scratching my
head to think how he was going to fill the time with anecdotes
on his work on the Hammer Horror movies, Star Wars and
being the Green Cross Code Man. The man is most famous for
being the bloke inside the costume of arguably cinema's most
memorable villain, Darth Vader, but surely his life story
wasn't that interesting that he could waffle on about it for
more than an hour?
wrong I was, thankfully. His work on Star Wars, while
taking up quite a large section of the recording, represents
only a small part of what is a varied and interesting career
in body building, acting and employment as a personal fitness
frank and very honest release is a welcome breath of fresh
air. How many times have you picked up an autobiography that
just sucks up to the Hollywood system? You won't find that
here. Prowse admits he speaks as he finds - no creeping -
and that's exactly what we get. He even admits his own faults
and is not afraid to poke fun at himself. An example of which
is the fantastically funny retelling of the tale of the Saudi
Prince who decided to play a joke on Prowse after he had been
dropping hints that it was his birthday.
as this is being marketed to appeal to Star Wars fans,
this recording starts off with Prowse's time on the original
trilogy - how he got the role and what working on the set
was like. He talks about his first meeting with George
Lucas (who spent most of the audition asking what
it was like working with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork
Orange) and the reason he chose to be Vader over Chewbacca
(it's always the villains that are remembered - although the
other more important reason was that being zipped up in a
hot, furry costume in the middle of summer didn't seem very
wasn't until he went for his first meeting with the costumers
that he realised that Vader was a masked villain. Then he
suddenly realised that the heat inside the costume was going
to be at least as unpleasant as the Wookie outfit. Once the
famous helmet was in place, the tinted eye glasses would mist
up in second to make him virtually blind. And if that wasn't
torture enough, it was decided to darken the eyes lenses even
more and cover up the holes in the mask so that cinema goers
wouldn't accidentally see anyone inside the mask - and just
to make sure, his face was blacked up too. His tales of standing
around for six hours in a 40lb Darth Vader sauna costume suddenly
make you realise what torture the poor man had to endure to
bring us the world's greatest villain.
goes on to dispel the myth, he constantly hears from fans,
that there was a battery operated fan in the helmet to keep
him cool. He mentions that Anthony
Daniels had it much worse - he wasn't the best
loved actor on set and was occasionally left in his costume
while the crew went for lunch.
the highlight for me, being an old Star Wars fan as
a kid, was the reading, word for word, of the diary he kept
during The Empire Strikes Back. I'd heard the tale,
churned out by Lucas, that Prowse had a bit of a loose tongue
and this was why he wasn't told what the real ending to The
Empire Strikes Back was to be. However, having heard Prowse's
version of events, I feel bad for misjudging the guy all these
years. It's quite obvious, due to the ridiculous veil of secrecy
on the set, that Prowse could not possibly have gone to the
press. Although I do remember reading a story at the time
of Return of the Jedi where Prowse had revealed in
a newspaper interview that the end of Jedi would see
a lot of the cast killed off, apart from Darth Vader. This
story isn't mentioned, so I am still none the wiser as to
whether Prowse was the leak for this false story or not.
was also enlightening to hear that Prowse didn't know that
Vader was Luke's father - everyone else did - until he went
to see the movie at the press previews. And I smiled to myself
when Prowse revealed that Harrison Ford's biography apparently
gives a false account of that movie screening - with Prowse
hitting the director in the back and asking why he hadn't
been told Vader was Luke's father. And while we are on the
subject of Ford, Prowse also seemed annoyed that Ford had
described him as: "The bodybuilder who played Vader".
And, to be perfectly honest, I can see why Prowse was annoyed
at this. Prowse could have been just as cutting in his autobiography
and described Ford as "the failed carpenter who plays
the same moody, silent types because in reality he's a pretty
poor actor", but he's too mature to stoop that low.
a lot of people don't remember is that at the time, after
Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness, Prowse was the most experienced
actor on the set of Star Wars. He's also right to condemn
Lucas's lack of any acknowledgement in Prowse being instrumental
in making a memorable screen villain lift off the page. While
a lot of people will probably argue that anyone could have
played Vader - it's just a big guy in a suit after all - I'd
argue that that's not the case. Anthony Daniels has been employed
for the latest Star Wars movies because he created
the walk and subtle movements of C3PO. The same surely can
be said of Prowse and his portrayal of Vader.
always had issues with the the fact that Prowse ever for one
second believed that his voice (with a heavy West County accent)
was ever going to be Vader's. For year's I joked about this.
That if Prowse had voiced Vader he would have sounded like
Viz's Farmer Palmer, delivering lines like: "Oi!
Gerr off my Death Star" or "Luke! I am you Father...
and your brother!" I can say this now, without fear of
being lynched as I am now a resident of the West Country and
my grandfather, one of the most intelligent and funny men
I've ever known, was also a Lincolnshire farmer. But again,
Anthony Daniels provided the voice for C3PO and, hearing Prowse
put on a gruff voice for Vader on this audio release, I don't
see why he couldn't have provided Vader's voice.
also found it unbelievable that Fox's official Vader personal
appearances were not Prowse, but instead just a large guy
in the costume (as apparently Prowse would have been too expensive).
He is justifiably furious when he has to explain to fans that
the Vader they have met in the past was not him. And that,
having bought a scrawled autograph, they have been conned
- especially when the publicity implies that fans will be
meeting the actor who played Vader. This Vader, they claim,
because of contractual problems is not allowed to speak or
sign the name Dave Prowse on the photos they sell. Therefore
millions of fans are being conned.
was also amusing to hear that he has been asked to leave two
events because he was there while a false Vader was somewhere
else in the building signing autographs. And the Hollywood
footprints of Vader are not Prowse's - even though they flew
out Anthony Daniels to wear the C3PO costume and place his
feet in the wet cement. He used to point out that a lot of
the pictures that fans ask him to sign are not of him in the
costume. But, due to the general disappointment of the fans,
he's stopped doing this.
was a little surprised to hear his stories about standing
up for his rights when being short changed. At first I though:
"Well, I hope you didn't jump in there without being
totally certain." And then I though: "What a tight
git". But it soon became clear that these weren't innocent
mistakes and I thought: "Good for him." More people
should act like this, instead of being too timid to complain
and then spending months moaning about it.
highlights include him talking about the two actors he's enjoyed
working with above all others (Peter Cushing and Roger Moore);
his time at Harrods when he sold a bow and arrow to Richard
Greene (the actor who portrayed Robin Hood); his close call
with the Harrods IRA bomb; his brush with the Krays; and his
time working with both Stanley Kubrick and Russ Meyer (the
later of whom he had two of his worst movie making experiences
with Black Snake and Who Killed Bambi?).
are also a lengthy series of chapters about his weightlifting
career - which starts from his very first interest in body
building. I have to admit that while I didn't think I'd really
find this side of his career to be of much interest, I found
his retelling of events to be quite entertaining - especially
his romantic encounter while away at a competition and his
retelling of a tale where he had to lift a dead body from
a local lake where he worked.
it is Prowse's 14 year long portrayal of the Green Cross Code
man that shines through as his proudest role. And so it should
too, as he has saved thousands of children's lives with his
numerous TV ads and poster campaigns.
mentioned earlier that Vader would never have had a West Country
accent, so how does his voice come across on this audio? Well,
in all honesty his voice is monotonous (but then so are most
talking books these days) and his delivery and pronunciation
could have been better in places, but then he's not a voice
actor and it's the content of his stories that matter. To
be honest that's all that you should focus on if you want
to hear these stories in the actor's own words. Besides how
do you think anyone would fair having to read 540 minutes
of a book?
my earlier reservations on the length of this release I could
have listen to much, much more. A joy from beginning to end.
After listening to this audio I have a new-found respect for
the man who breathed life into the world's most memorable
villain. Everyone that has ever seen a Star Wars movie
should buy this. It will probably be the best £13 you've
spent in a long time.
MP3-CD can be purchased for £12.99 from www.fantomfilms.co.uk
Dave Prowse will also have copies for sale at signing events
and on his website:
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