I went from being sad to being angry. David Prowse survived arthritis, prostate cancer, and the wrath of George Lucas. He denied having dementia—a few memory problems, sure, but he was also 85. From what I gather, he was in decent health and looked to continue to be so. And then, like so many other people, he died of COVID-19. As almost a million and a half people have worldwide now.
He was one of the actors who came to it through bodybuilding. Indeed, he had a series of gyms. He’d been hired for Casino Royale when they needed a big, imposing guy. He continued in that vein for any number of movies. I’ll admit I haven’t seen any of them, except Clockwork Orange which I haven’t seen in some time. I did, however, make part of today’s research looking up a clip of his actual voice—where he talks about filming it. And, yes, he sounds not unlike Time Team‘s Phil Harding.
Actually, that clip was delightful, because he talks about standing up to Stanley Kubrick during filming—he had to carry another actor and a wheelchair down three flights of stairs and have dialogue after. He expressed hesitation. Kubrick said he could do it. Prowse observed that Kubrick was not exactly known for Ed Wood-style single-take filming. Prowse was sure he’d be fired, but Kubrick actually managed to film the scene in only six takes. That’s not bad for most directors but downright miraculous for Kubrick.
The fallout between him and Lucas is believed to have seriously damaged his acting career. And I mean, I don’t want to dig into who said what when and whose fault the whole thing is. That just sounds exhausting and futile. What I will, however, say is that it’s clear who had the power in that situation, and it wasn’t Prowse. He was banned from conventions for decades. At least he was, in recent years, made an official member and honorary leader of the 501st Legion, that group of Star Wars fans who dress up like Stormtroopers.
However, that was not his proudest role. He was known to decades of British schoolchildren as the Green Cross Code Man, a figure on British public service announcements about road safety. This is another possible fascinating Wikipedia rabbit hole, I have to admit, the most fascinating fact from which is that, for the first two commercials, David Prowse’s voice . . . was dubbed. One assumes not by James Earl Jones.