Darth Vader returns to Bristol home where he grew up

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Monday, November 16, 2009
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This is Bristol

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... Darth Vader lived in Bristol.

And yesterday the evil lord of the dark side, one of the most iconic villains in film history, returned to the home in Southmead where he grew up to share a cup of tea with current owner Marion Williams, a lab technician.

Actor Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars' trilogy, visited his former home in Ambleside, where he spent most of his early life.

Dave, now 74, said as he approached the front door: "Our front garden was never as tidy as this. I never used to do any gardening!"

He has passed the house several times during return trips to Bristol but this was the first time he had stepped inside his old house, where he lived until he was 28.

He left the city in 1963 to work in London for a weightlifting company and to later forge his acting career.

He now lives in Croydon, London, with his wife Norma, who is from Filton.

Dave, who attended Bristol Grammar School on a scholarship, said the house had changed a great deal since he lived there.

He turned one of the rooms into a gym where he could train to build up his physique.

But while living there, he could never have guessed he was to take the part of one of cinema's most well-known "baddies".

He said: "My only ambition was to become Mr Universe and my life was geared to that. Every job I took was aimed to help me achieve my ambition and if it stood in the way, then I would leave and find something else."

As a child, Dave spent more than a year in hospital with suspected tuberculosis and had to wear a brace on his leg until he was 15 years old.

Eventually, the doctors told him there was nothing wrong with him and told him to throw the brace away – his joints were simply reacting to his rapid growth. Even in his mid-teens, Dave had reached 6ft 5ins in height.

It was not until he was walking past a newsagents on Pigsty Hill in Gloucester Road that he discovered his vocation.

He saw a bodybuilder on the front of a health and fitness magazine in the shop window and decided he wanted a body like that.

He took a succession of jobs, including as a bouncer at The Glen dance hall where he met his wife of 46 years, and as a lifeguard at Henleaze swimming pool.

In 1961, he was third in the British heavyweight weightlifting championships and won the title three years in succession from 1962.

He played a variety of villains and ghouls in several horror movies before his breakthrough as a result of playing gang member Julian in the controversial Stanley Kubrick film, A Clockwork Orange.

He was noticed by George Lucas, who wrote and directed the Star Wars films and he searched out Dave during a trip to London.

Lucas had managed to see A Clockwork Orange in the short time it was on general release before Kubrick imposed his own ban due to the adverse publicity about it.

Dave said: "George said he could offer me two parts – the first was a hairy gorilla called Chewbacca.

"I said I wasn't too interested because I didn't want to wear a mask – I wanted to play a part where people could see my face.

"He said the other part was the central villain and I told him, 'That will do'. But I never realised the villain would also be wearing a mask!"

After the success of Star Wars, Dave went on to become The Green Cross Code man who helped to teach youngsters how to cross the road in safety.

Dave believes his work with the code helped to save an estimated 250,000 lives.

Dave chatted with homeowner Marion in between a succession of television and press interviews.

She had no idea the house she bought the house five years ago was once the home of a celebrity.

She said: "When I bought the house, the woman that I bought it from told me about its history.

"I knew he lived in the area but I didn't realise it was this house."

Marion, 61, who has two children and five grandchildren, said afterwards: "He was really nice. I was delighted to meet him."

Dave dropped in to see Marion before officially opening new changing rooms at nearby Southmead Rugby Football Club, which have been built at a cost of £300,000.

They include four multi-purpose rooms which can be used by men, women or children as well as separate changing rooms for officials.

Dave said there was a another reason for visiting Southmead – he was concerned the area had received negative publicity recently as a result of a BBC Panorama programme, which showed two reporters posing as a couple being subjected to racial abuse.

Dave said: "As far as I am concerned, Southmead is a wonderful place and I am convinced that the incident which was portrayed was an isolated one."

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  • Profile image for This is Bristol

    by jibbywib, Cotham

    Monday, November 16 2009, 7:21PM

    “How did Darth Vadar know what Luke Skywalker was getting for Christmas?

    He felt his presents!

    Boom boom.”

  • Profile image for This is Bristol

    by Jon, Bristol

    Monday, November 16 2009, 5:08PM

    “He indeed gives the inhabitants of Southmead something to aspire to - leave as soon as they can and don't move back.”

  • Profile image for This is Bristol

    by Richard, Bristol

    Monday, November 16 2009, 4:29PM

    “Always a pleasure to read about genuinely nice and down to earth people. Here is a man who is a true icon for the people of Southmead.”

  • Profile image for This is Bristol

    by Anthony, Bath

    Monday, November 16 2009, 4:15PM

    “How many sentences begin with Dave? Excellent journalism!!”

  • Profile image for This is Bristol

    by Luke Skywalker, Planet of Tatooine

    Monday, November 16 2009, 3:42PM

    “Your powers grow weak, old man.”

  • Profile image for This is Bristol

    by Obi-Wan Kenobi, The universe

    Monday, November 16 2009, 3:16PM

    “Good luck David!
    May the force be with you!”

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