Darth Vader is one of the most iconic villains. He is so well-known, and he strikes fear in many, on-screen and off. Even though the prequel trilogy gave the tragic backstory to Vader, he still holds a very prominent place in fictional villain history.
Since Darth Vader has been around since the ‘70s, there have been many iterations of the character. From live-action to animated, here are the many actors that have played the mechanic Sith Lord.
There were four actors that made up Darth Vader in the original trilogy
The original appearance of Darth Vader actually consisted of a few actors to make it work. David Prowse, a British bodybuilder and actor, stood in for the physical role of Vader. Prowse and George Lucas didn’t get along, and a big reason is that Prowse guessed — and shared — the “Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father” twist. Bob Anderson was the stunt double for Vader and was a stunt-swordsman.
Prowse didn’t get to play the unmasked version of Vader though. That role went to Sebastian Shaw, who plays Anakin after Luke redeems him. He doesn’t really count as a version of Vader, but it’s close.
And lastly, probably the most important part of Vader is his voice. With the breathing and mechanic air to it, not to mention the gravitas involved, Darth Vader’s voice is what makes the character so iconic. And that all comes down to James Earl Jones, who wasn’t that well-known in 1977. Now, his voice has gone on to create other legendary characters like Mufasa. Jones has voiced Vader from 1977 until recently in new Star Wars content like Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.
The prequels showed the creation of Vader, and ‘Rogue One’ added even more depth to the character
As stated above, the prequels were created to really dig into the backstory of Vader. The first six Star Wars films are about Anakin Skywalker’s story, from its beginning to its end. It showed how he went from a slave on Tatooine to powerful Jedi Knight, then Sith Lord. It also makes his redemption all that more significant.
Hayden Christensen is the actor that actually got to step into the Vader costume in Revenge of the Sith, something that he was pretty excited about. Who wouldn’t be? Jones played the voice of Vader again, because who could outdo him? And Gene Bryant stood in for Christensen in a few scenes as well.
In Star Wars Rebels, we already mentioned that Jones came back to voice Vader for the animated series. And Darth Vader does show up in the final moments of the series finale for Star Wars: The Clone Wars but doesn’t speak. However, there are moments in visions or in Rebels where Matt Lanter’s voice is sort of mixed in with Christensen and Jones’. Lanter voiced Anakin throughout the whole series, so it’s only fitting.
Rogue One came along and introduced an iconic Darth Vader scene that fans didn’t know they needed. And to make that appearance happen, Vader came to life with the help of Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous.
Various other actors have stepped into the suit, for voice-overs and more
Since Vader is so important to the franchise and to pop culture in general, he’s come back in many forms. For instance, Andrew Nelson took on the part of Darth Vader in Star Wars video games in the ‘90s and in one scene for the Empire Strikes Back special edition re-release in 1997. Then, Brock Peters voiced Vader in the Star Wars radio plays in the ’80s.
Mat Lucas voiced Anakin and Vader (pre-suit) in the Revenge of the Sith video game in 2005. And probably the funniest addition on this list is Zac Efron in Robot Chicken. He voiced Anakin Skywalker on the stop-motion sketch comedy series in 2010 and later in 2016. While it’s mostly in the role of Anakin, you could argue Efron voiced him on Mustafar, which was essentially Vader just before the machinery.
Going off of everyone listed here, there have been 13 actors who’ve played Vader. But, since the character has been done so many times, you could argue there are more.