Sunday, January 01, 2017

I Am Your Father (2015)

Growing up, I knew that it was James Earl Jones that voiced Darth Vader, but it was another actor that was inside the costume.  It wasn’t until recently that I learned anything about that actor, David Prowse.  Most hardcore fans of Star Wars will probably recognize the name.  I didn’t.  I am Your Father is a documentary that attempts to rectify that.

When Star Wars was first being made, George Lucas needed two tall actors.  One would play Chewbacca and the other would play Darth Vader.  Peter Mayhew, at 7' 3", wanted to play a good guy, so he starred as Chewbacca.  Prowse, at 6' 6", was partial to playing villains, so he donned the black costume.  Prowse had a voice that wasn’t really appropriate for an intimidating villain, so it was assumed that his voice would be modified, if used at all.

The movie focuses Prowse’s involvement with the three original Star Wars films.  Way back when A New Hope was just Star Wars, Prowse was being interviewed and suggested that it would be interesting if Darth Vader was revealed to be Luke’s father.  There were no plans of a sequel at that point, so there was no way that Prowse could have known.  Still, he earned a reputation for leaking spoilers.

Fast forward to the end of Return of the Jedi.  Darth Vader’s final scene is being filmed wherein the mask is taken off to reveal…Sebastian Shaw?  Prowse hadn’t been informed that a different actor was being used for the big scene.  It had apparently been done to keep Prowse from revealing a big spoiler.  The problem is that he found out anyway.  Oh, and it got leaked to the press regardless.  The paper that leaked the information admitted that it wasn’t Prowse’s doing.  This didn’t stop Lucas from keeping Prowse out of any official Star Wars event.

Marcos Cabotá cowrote and codirected the film and also interviewed Prowse.  You get the sense that he doesn’t think Prowse got his due.  George Lucas was the filmmaker behind Star Wars.  As such, he had a right to make the film as he saw fit.  Lucas wanted Shaw because he felt that Prowse didn’t have the right look.  It was a little underhanded to completely exclude Prowse from Darth Vader’s final scene solely because he might spill some details that would have likely been spilled anyway.

The movie is well done.  It was able to hold my attention the entire way through and I didn’t feel bored with it at any point.  There are interviews with Lou Ferrigno as well as people involved behind the scenes in Star Wars  It’s one of those stories that you don’t really think about.  You know that someone was walking around on set as Darth Vader.  (Actually, two were.  Bob Anderson did many of the stunts.)  The same goes for C3-PO and R2-D2.  There were people inside the droids, even if the voices didn’t match.  How many times have you thought about who was under Chewbacca’s fur?

As with Candyman, I get the impression that there’s a lot more to the story.  What’s presented here is Prowse having leaked information that anyone could have leaked and whether Lucas was justified in his reaction.  I doubt Lucas has held a grudge for nearly 40 years because of something that Prowse ended up not even doing.  Either Prowse is less guilty that Lucas would believe or Prowse is more guilty than Cabotá would believe.

I sometimes wonder how many people have done things that are ubiquitous, but don’t have the corresponding fame.  Think about all the things you see and use.  There are probably a hundred names that made contributions, even major contributions, that you’ll never hear of.  Some do eventually make it into the public eye.  How many don’t?

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