Why Darth Vader's David Prowse Was Banned From All Star Wars Events

The internet has, among many things, given birth to spoiler culture. While some fans can't be trusted to keep plots of major books, movies and television shows a secret, we know that the actors can — thanks to their professionalism and, well, the fear of breaching their NDAs. 

Many years ago, however, a spoiler almost destroyed a major future plot twist that creator George Lucas' original "Star Wars" trilogy intended to set up — Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader's father-son reveal. David Prowse, the late actor behind Darth Vader's helmet in the films, was the culprit. Thankfully, the lack of the world wide web to disseminate back in the day stopped the spoiler from ruining "Star Wars" forever. Still, when George Lucas got wind of it, it was the beginning of a feud with David Prowse — one that would eventually lead to the filmmaker banning the actor from all future "Star Wars" events.

Inside George Lucas and David Prowse's feud

David Prowse portrayed the imposing evil figure in the original trilogy of films. He also provided dialogue on set for Darth Vader before "Star Wars" creator George Lucas hired James Earl Jones to dub over him. When Vader's true face was revealed in "Return of the Jedi," actor Sebastian Shaw was seen as the man behind the mask and not Prowse — the actor known for physically portraying the antagonist inside the suit. Ever wondered why that was? Prowse's longstanding feud with George Lucas had something to do with it.

In late 1978 — two years before "Empire Strikes Back" hit theaters, David Prowse made a public appearance where he revealed to the press that Darth Vader was Luke's father. The moment was reported by The San Francisco Examiner. The world didn't have access to the internet then, so George Lucas and "Star Wars" enthusiasts had no way of knowing that David Prowse was running around and spilling the beans on the most valuable piece of information the franchise could ever have.

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers

David Prowse said that there would be a Luke vs. Vader "do-or-die lightsaber duel." During the ensuing battle, Luke would learn that Vader was his father, and in the words of Prowse, "Father can't kill son, son can't kill father. So they live again to star in 'Star Wars IV.'" The actor later called the big reveal "a lucky guess," since the script for "The Empire Strikes Back" hadn't been written yet.

Regardless of Prowse's defense, George Lucas was furious about the reveal. The filmmaker cast Sebastian Shaw for the role of the unmasked Darth Vader in "Return of the Jedi," leaving Prowse only in the suit while Vader's helmet was on (although he was allegedly promised the unmasked part). In 2010, Prowse appeared in "The People vs. George Lucas," a supposedly anti-Lucas documentary. The actor's relationship with George Lucas severed the same year, and he was banned from attending all "Star Wars" events.

At the time, Prowse explained he wasn't given a reason for the actions taken against him. When the actor inquired, he was told that he had "burnt too many bridges" between Lucasfilm and himself. "No other reason given," said Prowse, as per a report from the New York Daily News.

The actor also narrated an incident from the early '80s, when a journalist called him to discuss his weightlifting career. The conversation quickly sidetracked when Prowse was asked about his character being killed off in the third "Star Wars" movie (via Den of Geek). Prowse said:

"He turned up at my gymnasium that evening and halfway through he says, 'You know you're being killed off in this movie, don't you? And another guy's playing the dying Darth Vader?' I said, "They wouldn't do that – they wouldn't go and unmask somebody else after I've played the part for six years.' He asked if I had a call sheet, and he looked at it and it said: 'Dave Prowse, Darth Vader, Studio 1,' and underneath it "'Sebastian Shaw, Anakin Skywalker, Studio 10.'

The media blew it out of proportion

The day after the interview, Prowse recalled, the Daily Mail ran a story with a headline that read, "Darth Vader to be killed off in the next movie, in an interview with David Prowse." It was the last straw in his relationship with Lucasfilm, and "ruined" his association with the franchise forever. The actor recalled:

"And that ruined my association with Star Wars. I was ostracized while on the movie, the producer and director wouldn't work with me, and Lucas wouldn't speak to me. I had six weeks of purgatory."

In his autobiography "Straight from the Force's Mouth," Prowse once again clarified that the reporter had broken the news of Darth Vader's death to him, not the other way around.

Despite their personal quibbles, George Lucas paid tribute to the actor after he passed away in 2020, at the age of 85. The filmmaker said that David Prowse made Darth Vader "leap off the page," and described his physicality as "an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader's presence." Lucas added:

"David was up for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable, tragic figure. May he rest in peace."