David Prowse

Although he played one of the most famous movie characters of the 20th century, David Prowse's face remained largely unknown to all but the most rabid fans of "Star Wars" (1977), following his chilling performance as super-villain, Darth Vader. In reality, Prowse was a gentle giant who spent most of his downtime away from the camera running a London fitness center and raising money for charity. A child of the Second World War, he built up his slender frame with weightlifting as his ticket out of the English provinces. Though he never realized his dream of winning the Mr. Universe bodybuilding competition, Prowse parlayed his success as Britain's Heavyweight Weightlifting Champion into roles on television and in films. After memorable turns in Hammer Studio's "The Horror of Frankenstein" (1970) and Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" (1971), Prowse was one of several oversized and undersized actors brought in to audition for "Star Wars." Though he was considered first for the part of the yeti-like Chewbacca, it was as the black-caped Lord of the Sith that Prowse attained pop culture sainthood through his return in "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) to the trilogy's completion with "Return of the Jedi" (1983). Though his performances were revoiced by James Earl Jones, Prowse's association with the character made him a beloved personality among the international science fiction and fantasy community.