If Geek Dave only knew the power of the Dark Side...
1. In George Lucas' first draft of 'The Star Wars', the tall, grim general Darth Vader was already close in line with his final depiction, all that was needed was to realise the character for screen.
It's no secret the entire Imperial Army is a thinly veiled metaphor for Nazi Germany, so it's possibly unsurprising that Darth Vader's outfit was originally inspired by different parts of the Nazi army uniform. His main jumpsuit is taken from the SS, the cape is inspired by the Nazi officer's dress uniform, and the helmet is inspired by the infamous "Jerry" helmet.
2. Talking of the helmet - he wasn't actually supposed to have it! At least not all the time. In early drafts of A New Hope, Vader was supposed to exit the airlock of his Imperial fighter and propel himself through space to 'break in' to the ship containing Princess Leia. This meant he'd have to wear some sort of breathing apparatus, and so Brian Muir sculpted a complementary helmet based on Ralph McQuarrie design...
...The next scene would've seen Vader remove his helmet for the first time in the film, revealing the scary imposing character in the flesh. However when George Lucas saw the concept art for the helmet, he loved it and worked it in as a permanent fixture.
3. At this time Vader was still all 'man', but Lucas made the change so the character would be part-cyborg and theorised that he needed to wear the helmet to breath. The iconic "whooo-PAH" sound of Vader's breathing was down to sound designer Ben Burtt, who used nothing more than a simple scuba regulator.
4. The man inside the Darth Vader suit was bodybuilder/actor David Prowse, who at the time of landing the role of Vader was better known in Britain as the Green Cross Code Man...
...but it wasn't his ability to get kids to stop, look and listen that won him the part of Vader, rather George Lucas had seen the 6ft 6in Prowse as F. Alexander's bodyguard Julian in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, and felt he was the exact tall guy he needed.
5. So Lucas had the tall intimidating presence of David Prowse to bring Vader to life physically, but Prowse's West Country accent was less than perfect for a Sith Lord. So much so that, in the 2004 documentary Empire of Dreams, actress Carrie
Fisher quipped that they nicknamed Prowse "Darth Farmer" because of his
Lucas wanted a "darker voice" (that is, a deeper, more
reverberating voice), and after considering using the great Orsen Welles, the job went to James Earl Jones who dubbed the voice-over later on. Jones was paid just $7,000 for his work on the first Star Wars, and was uncredited for both that film and The Empire Strikes Back because he felt his contributions were too small to warrant recognition. Come Return of the Jedi, though, he received a vocal credit in the closing titles.
6. Despite being the lead villain and one of the most iconic characters
in cinematic history, Darth Vader only has 12 minutes of screen time in
the first Star Wars movie - that’s less than 10% of the movie. But man, what an impact those 12 minutes made!
7. During the filming of A New Hope, Prowse was going through lightsabers at an alarming rate. He broke one after another due to the fact that he had absolutely zero experience in swordfighting. These props weren't cheap, so for The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi professional fencer Bob Anderson wore the Vader suit for the duel scenes.
One problem - Prowse was 6in taller than Anderson! This was resolved by using camera angle trickery and installing stilts into Anderson's boots.
8. In 1978 Prowse casually dropped the ultimate spoiler in an interview with a local Californian newspaper...
...the actor just happened to mention that in 'Star Wars III' it would be revealed that Vader was Luke's father! This was two years before The Empire Strikes Back was released and most likely just Prowse joking around, as George Lucas himself hadn't even settled on the idea then.
Lucas had hired science fiction author Leigh
Brackett to write the first Star Wars sequel based on a story treatment he completed in late November 1977. The
treatment is similar to the final film, except that Vader does not
reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write
from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke. Lucas
was disappointed with the script, but Brackett died of cancer before he
could discuss it with her. With no writer available, Lucas opted to
write the next draft himself, and this is when he first introduced the new plot
twist of Vader claiming to be Luke's father.
9. Possibly because of Dave's loose tongue, when it came to filming the actual "I am your father" scene, the only person from the physical cast who was in on the plot twist was Mark Hamill.
On set, Prowse spoke the line "Obi Wan killed your father", to which young Skywalker replied...
Hamill himself only found out just prior to shooting the scene, and it was well after the cast had completed principal photography when James Earl Jones overdubbed the line.
10. David Prowse claims that Lucas originally told him that he would be seen and heard at the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader's mask was removed. Instead, yet another actor portrayed the character - Sebastian Shaw.
To complete the list of actors who have portrayed Vader we can include Brock Peters who was the voice of Darth Vader in the early 1980s NPR/USC radio series. Scott Lawrence and Matt Sloan have voiced him for several video games. Mat Lucas did the honours for the 2003
micro-series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Matt Lanter in the CGI Star
Wars: The Clone Wars and later animated TV series.
Then there's Hayden Christensen who portrays Vader in the closing moments of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The suit had to be adapted to fit Christensen's smaller frame, and sadly that wasn't the only thing adapted as Lucas replaced Sebastian Shaw for the DVD Special Edition release of Return of the Jedi...
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