David Prowse, M.B.E. - May the Force Be With You
By David Gentle
At 6ft 7 inches, 20 stone and with a 51 inch chest, David Prowse is a big
man and with a big heart. Multi talented and known not simply for his
physical prowess, immense though it is, but also for his long involvement in
International sport, show business and charity work. Consider just one
aspect for example. The 'Green Cross Code Man" is famous in this country and
indeed the world, as for 14 years, Dave Prowse gave road safety talks in
over 2,000 shows at schools, to half a million children in countries all
over the world; In Europe. U.S.A,. Australia. Barbados, even the Cayman
Isles. In the UK alone he visited approximately 700 cities. towns, and
villages the net result for his efforts was accidents involving children
dropped by over half, helping to save 20,000 lives per year! Imagine the
tragedies averted which might be enough to justify a man's worth in his
lifetime. During this time Dave was appointed Special Deafriender by the
Royal Institute for the Deaf and used to travel the UK presenting phonic
hearing aids to hearing impaired children. He was also invited to lecture at
The National Technical Institute for The Deaf in Rochester, New York.
Devoted to many charities, including The Variety Club of Great Britain, The
Stars Organization for Spastics, (now affiliated to the Scope charity),
Arthritis Care, he has supported major organizations for the disabled and
handicapped in the U.K. and overseas. He is also heavily involved in his own
charity. Dave Prowse's 'Force Against Arthritis', pledging to assist in raising
two and three quarter million pounds for a new research centre at the world
famous orthopaedic hospital in Oswestry, Shropshire. The Arthritis and
Rheumatism Council is also involved in raising funds for Dave's charity. Dave
knows all about how debilitating and frustrating arthritis can be. Still
suffering from arthritis (not helped by a bad weightlifting accident in 1989)
has meant a hip replacement and more recently major surgery to save his ankle
from being amputated.
He is also the man to achieve perhaps most fame from his large screen role as
Darth Vader the ultimate in movie villains. Dave was born 1st July 1935,
brought up and educated in Bristol winning a scholarship to attend Bristol
Grammar school 1947 to 1952. At first he was a capable athlete, especially good
at sprinting but later aged 13 yrs., he developed suspected T.B. of the knee and
so for the next 4 years landed up mainly bed ridden and wearing a leg iron.
Time is supposed to heal all ills, where he certainly grew in length and by the
time they took the leg iron off, David had sprouted form 5ft 9: to a lanky 6 ft,
5 inch lanky underweight teenager. Desperate to fill out his frame, he was
inspired by Reeves, Park and Pearl and after a quick try out with a Charles
Atlas course, David took up weight training/bodybuilding. Just 17 yrs. old he
made such progress, going from 160lbs to 240 lbs. that he was invited to enter
the 1960 Mr. Universe contest, won by mighty Henry Downs. Although not a
physique winner, David was often featured in Health & Strength, known then as
Britain's tallest bodybuilder.
After ten years of bodybuilding and aware that height was his limiting factor
for stardom per se Dave diverted his energies and every growing strength into
weightlifting. At first, coming 3rd in the 1961 British Heavyweight Class, then
in 1962 becoming the British Heavyweight champion, and again in 1963 and 1964.
Later he competed in both the World Championships in Budapest and the European
Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. Around that period, he set numerous
British records including a deadlift of 674 3/4 lbs., straight arm pullover of
160 lbs and a strict barbell curl with 202 lbs. He also recalls with pleasure,
the great lifters he associated with, including Louis Martin and competing with
Yurl Viasov and Serge Reding.
Before and after this active era David like most mortals (before he became
immortal as Darth Vader in star Wars) had to earn a living. He had a whole
succession of jobs, confessing the main criteria of work had to be conducive
with and to his training. Occupations ranged from lifeguard to accountant, at
one time working for a famous football pools company. However, once he became
the British W/L champion he decided to produce his own magazine 'Power', also
buying 'Fitness & Health' and publishing both for a limited period making an
attempt to encourage all around training interests. it was not to be. With an
ever increasing number of magazines and a fragmented market of bodybuilders,
lifters, powerlifters, keep fit fans and plain old health nuts, 'Power' folded
in 1969. Disappointed at missing out in the Tokyo Olympic Games, because for
reasons best known to themselves, BAWLA decided not to send a heavyweight; David
totally anti-steroid, turned professional. He endorsed the then novel apparatus
Bullworker which was even on sale in Harrods (I never had the power to get mine
out of the box!), and later touring as 'Britain's Strongest Man'; tearing
telephone directories, bending bars among many other strength demonstrations. He
then entered as a contestant, in the Highland Games and was in the worlds top
three at caber tossing. In 1963 on a Scottish tour With George Eiferman and
David Webster, David Prowse became the first person to lift the fabled Dinnie
Stones which weigh approx 7cwt. (nearly 800 lbs).
By 1965 David was making major inroads into show business from TV
commercials to full bodied roles. From 'The Saint' TV series to the big screen
'Casino Royale', he worked With just about everyone in a galaxy of stars. In the
1970's he played prime parts in the Hammer Horror movies, but it was in 1976/7
when George Lucas 'Star Wars' hit town, that David Prowse really came into the
limelight as the evil Darth Vader (in the highest grossing movie in the U,S.A.
for all time). Meanwhile not one to waste time, David landed a contract for the
Child Pedestrian Road Safety commercial, for the Dept. of Transport as The Green
Cross Code man. Keeping his finger on the pulse in the fitness world, he became
National Director of weight training at Crystal Palace and for ten years,
Keep-fit consultant to Harrods.
Come 1970, despite his multiple commitments and TV and film career
blossoming, fitness fanatic David opened and has run ever since his own Health
Studio & Gym in S.E. London; a venue used by many top stars, Frank Zane in
particular praising David's facilities for training and coaching. Meanwhile,
David becomes even more famous as a one-to-one personal trainer of the stars and
celebrities. His client list is like an International show biz Who's Who, Film
stars include, Albert Finney. Stephanie Powell, Robert Powell, Shane Richie etc.
plus professional people and politicians. Most publicized would be David's
efforts to build up a scrawny Christopher Reeve into a credible muscled
'Superman' movie role (1977). Under Dave's tuition, Chris put on 30lbs of muscle
in six weeks. Reeves of course is now fighting a new battle to regain health
from his tragic horse riding accident and David Prowse aka Darth Vader wishes
Chris all the power and 'Force' he can muster.
Dave's charity work in the U.S.A started in Washington D.C. when he attended
a film premier organized on behalf of Eunice Kennedy's Special Olympics
Movement. At a reception at the Shriver's house he was asked if he would like to
drum up publicity (and cash) for the cause. Dave met up With his old training
buddy, Arnold S, who was already fully involved with the cause. Introduced later
to Alan Reich. who is head of the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.),
Dave was asked to M.C. the annual General Conference of the Presidents Committee
on Employment for the Handicapped. Over 5,000 delegates attended. He was
appointed M.C. for three years in succession. This was followed by an invitation
to tour schools for Child Pedestrian Safety. The media thought it unique for an
Englishman to tour the States teaching American kids how to cross the road, They
turned up in droves.
In 1983. Dave was summoned to The White House to witness President signing
the proclamation declaring 1983-1992 the International Decade of the Disabled
Person. At the end of the ceremony Dave was awarded the honour of being
appointed Special Ambassador to the International Decade by President Regan
Least known in this country is David's quite amazing celebrity status
especially when invited to attend U.S.A. Sci-Fi conventions. Enthusiasts of
Star Wars. Star Wars 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedl, Forbidden
World etc, queue in their thousands just to see him, sometimes to just touch him
(Darth Vader) or obtain his autograph. With just a few days notice that he was
coming, one such convention in San Diego was attended by 32,000 fans!
David is married to Norma and they have three children. He has long since
proven he's not just a musclemen" (as did Arnold S.) with a diversity of
talents, his most recent being literary. His two published books are 'Play Safe
With The Stars', a child's guide to safety, and 'Fitness is Fun' an
autobiography/weight tra1n1ng and fitness manual which is worth buying for the
photographs alone. A lover of good food, German sweet wine and cider (hope it's
Bulmers Strongbow cider, Dave! Ed.), he is also co-author of a celebrity recipe
book, a movie trivia manual and Hammer House of Horrors anthology.
Only two things scare me about Dave. He once sat in front of me at a Universe
show and I couldn't see a damn thing (and I wasn't going to ask him to move!).
The other is his apparent ambition to sing With a trad Jazz band. I suspect
Dave's singing is like Les Dawson's piano playing, so I do hope to miss that
In over 40 year at International sport and show biz. from Benny Hill to the
Return of the Jedi et al, David Prowse deserves every honour bestowed upon him,
because he is a man who has given his time and great effort to improve the
quality of life for many. especially the handicapped and most worthy of all to
save children's lives. I for one am grateful that all those long years ago, a
lanky kid had the courage to throw off that leg piece and take up the barbell.
May "The Force be With You" David.
For further information on his charity work (mention Health & Strength)
contact: Dave Prowse. 12 Marshalsea Road, London SEl IHL England. Tel: 01071-407
-5650 Fax: 0171·403-8326 or in the U.S.A. c/o Max Patterson, 508 Maplewood
Avenue, Wilson, N.C. 27893, U.S.A. Tel: (919) 291 9468.
- Mr. Universe contender 1960 weighing 250 lbs at 6'7".
- British Heavyweight Weightlifting Champion 1962, 1963 and 1964.
- Competed in Worlds Weightlifting Championships Budapest 1962.
- Empire and Commonwealth Games representative Perth, Australia 1962.
- Scottish Highland Games champion.
- Was the first person ever to lift the Dinnie Stones weighing 784 lbs.
David Prowse, M.B.E., A Career Most Extraordinary © Copyright by David
Gentle All Rights Reserved
Straight from the Force's Mouth
David has most recently had published two volumes of his life and times,
'STRAIGHT FROM THE FORCES MOUTH' high recommended.
Now after 8 years in the writing - The book Star Wars and Sci-Fi fans
worldwide have been waiting for, published in two volumes 'Straight from the
Force's Mouth' takes you through a fantastic career spanning nearly 50 years.
Volume 1 - A 33 chapter, lavishly illustrated autobiography featuring a Star
Wars section that gives the reader a day to day insight of working on the first
3 movies and all the promotional publicity tours. Training Superman Christopher
Reeves, working on the Hammer Horror Movies, working with Cinematic 'Giants'
like Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Russ Mayer and much, much more.
Volume 2 is a Photo only book with literally hundreds of photos either taken
by Dave of from his personal archive. Exclusive pics of the 'Empire Strikes
Back' and 'Phantom Menace' Premier's working on the Hasbro 'Rebels Assault 2,
video game shoot, loads of convention photos and shots form his investiture.