George Lucas Had a Strained Relationship With the Original Darth Vader Actor; Here’s Why
Darth Vader is such a significant character and an even bigger villain in the Star Wars franchise. While his overall story is pretty tragic when you take into account the prequels and his Anakin Skywalker backstory, he’s still the frightening Big Bad in Episodes IV, V, and VI.
But it turns out that the actor behind the Darth Vader mask from the original trilogy didn’t have the best relationship with George Lucas. In fact, he stopped getting invited to official Star Wars events. What happened between the two? Turns out, it involved loose lips and bad blood.
In 2010, David Prowse said he’d ‘burned too many bridges’ at Lucasfilm
According to Zimbio, David Prowse — the bodybuilder-turned-actor in the physical role of Darth Vader — stopped getting invited to official conventions or to do anything officially related to Star Wars. In 2010, he wrote on his website that it was because he’d “burnt too many bridges” over the years.
What lead to this? Well, one massive point of contention on his end was the fact that his voice was dubbed over by James Earl Jones. This was the beginning of their “feud” or general dislike of each other. Prowse allegedly wasn’t told about this until after A New Hope premiered.
While it’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else but Jones saying iconic lines like, “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” or “I am your father,” that is a tough wakeup call to get without warning. Not to mention, years later in Return of the Jedi, Prowse allegedly also felt slighted when he found out Sebastian Shaw played the unmasked Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker. More on that later.
Prowse spoiled a major twist, which put him on bad footing with Lucas
According to Den of Geek, Prowse also let some major Star Wars secrets fly. At an autograph signing a couple of years before Empire Strikes Back came out — before they even had a script — Prowse was “somewhat intoxicated” and told the crowd his very accurate theory about Vader. “Father can’t kill son, son can’t kill father,” he told them. “So they live again to star in Star Wars IV.”
Of course, while there wasn’t social media and things didn’t spread fast back then, it still got out to at least a couple of newspapers. Not to mention the fans that were already there. And it did, also, get back to George Lucas, reportedly.
This resulted in Prowse being a “security threat” on Empire Strikes Back, allegedly. He wasn’t given the actual line of “No Luke, I am your father” while filming the iconic scene. He was given a fake thing to say along the lines of “Obi-Wan Kenobi is your father.” This isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary though, because no one was really let in on that major secret until the movie came out.
Supposedly Mark Hamill was told only the night before filming and only Lucas, producer Gary Kurtz, and director Irvin Kershner knew. So whether they were going to tell Prowse or not, they couldn’t speak the true line during filming, otherwise, the rest of the crew would hear it as well.
Prowse was then blamed for leaking Darth Vader/Anakin’s death in ‘Return of the Jedi’
Whether Prowse somehow knew Vader would for sure be Luke’s father or it was just a very good guess, that slipup at the autograph signing followed him until his final Star Wars movie. According to the book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, Prowse was also blamed as the source of a leak that Darth Vader died in Return of the Jedi. He, of course, does — SPOILER — die, and comes back as Anakin Skywalker for a brief moment. But, you know, leaks are bad.
Because of a long story involving a sneaky journalist and Prowse, along with the previous situation with leaking, Prowse was “almost completely sidelined” while filming. This is supposedly why stunt actor Bob Anderson stood in for the role of Darth Vader for most of Return of the Jedi.
“And that ruined my association with Star Wars,” Prowse said. “I was ostracized while on the movie, the producer and director wouldn’t work with me, and Lucas wouldn’t speak to me. I had six weeks of purgatory.”
Prowse said that he “couldn’t sleep that night” thinking of the story in the newspaper that seemed to suggest Prowse leaked the ending to Return of the Jedi. It also didn’t help matters that the journalist broke the news to him that Shaw would play the unmasked Darth Vader. “They wouldn’t do that – they wouldn’t go and unmask somebody else after I’ve played the part for six years,” Prowse told the reporter.
Overall, there were a lot of missteps and both sides seemed to lose more and more faith in the other side as the years went by. But what’s Star Wars without a little bit of drama, right?