I remember seeing Star Wars when I was young. I don’t know if it was in the theater or not, though I do remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in theaters. I even got my picture in the paper while waiting in line for Jedi. However, it wasn’t until about ten or fifteen years ago that I heard anything about David Prowse and the controversy swirling between him and Lucasfilm. I Am Your Father discusses that and more.
Prowse was a championship body builder back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He then appeared in several Hammer Horror films, other films, television spots, and shows. He happened to be doing work for Hammer at Elstree Studios when a call went out for the tallest actors available to play the part of Darth Vader in Star Wars.
Prowse got the part, and acted well despite being completely covered and unable to show his face. However, he claims he was never told he would be over-dubbed by James Earl Jones. This was the beginning of tensions between him and Lucasfilm. I Am Your Father goes on to explain that Prowse discussed possible plots to those sequels. This was done before he knew there would be additional films. Part of what he proposed was that Darth Vader should be Luke’s father. The Fox studio executives were not happy about that.
At the end of Jedi, the director chose not to use him in the scene where Vader dies. A newspaper interview with Prowse also had coverage about the filming that was finishing at Elstree. The article included an anonymous tip about Vader dying at the end. Studio executives blamed Prowse for that, even though there was nothing tying him to the leak. Since that time, according to Prowse, he has not been invited to any official Star Wars event or convention.
Now, I met Prowse about ten years ago, and he’s a really nice guy. It was fun to talk to him and hear some of his stories. However, in this documentary and back when I met him, he seemed weighed down by a large grudge against Lucasfilm. I can understand being upset about being wrongly blamed for leaks and such. I wonder if it’s negatively impacted him too much, what with carrying all that negative baggage for so long.
Regardless of all that, fans around the world have accepted him. Multiple scenes in I Am Your Father show Prowse at conventions and before large crowds of adoring fans. The most interesting part of the film was the brief snippets they showed of Prowse reshooting that death scene and acting it out himself. Sadly, Lucasfilm and their legions of attorneys refused permission for that clip to be shown publicly. I really think they ought to embrace their history and let that scene be seen. Maybe they could add it as an extra on some future home video release.
I enjoyed this documentary. It gave interesting insight into Prowse and his family, as well as his perspective on his career. His portrayal of Darth Vader will live on into the future as one of the most powerful villain roles in cinema history. While some of the commentary from the director of the documentary felt a little patronizing (just a little, though), I still recommend seeing I Am Your Father. It’s worth your time.
Release Date: November 20, 2015 (Spain)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: English, Spanish
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief, in passing)
Language: 2 (occasional saltiness, some minor, deity)