By Rod Whitfield
During a casual discussion about the Star Wars movies over dinner, two Spanish film makers, Toni Bestard and Marcos Cabotá, decided to track down the man who was the physical embodiment of the original films’ main villain Darth Vader and make a documentary about him. He had been treated rather shabbily by writer and director George Lucas. Some of the others involved in the original trilogy from the late 70s and early 80s, as well as Bestard and Cabotá, decided that it was a story worth telling. Bestard joined us recently from his home in Spain to tell us about the inspiration behind making, I Am Your Father.
“Three years ago, Marcos and me, the other director, we met at a dinner and we started talking about Star Wars,” he begins the story, “because we are Star Wars fans. During this conversation, we started talking about David Prowse. We knew who he was and we wondered what he was doing now. We knew something about his story, but after this conversation, the next day, we started to investigate.
“We wondered if anyone had made a film about him, we guessed that maybe someone in the UK had made a documentary or film, but nobody had! So two weeks after the first conversation between Marcos and me, we went to London. We went to David’s home, and we asked if we could make a documentary about his life, and he said ‘Okay, yes, why not!’
“So finally, three years later, we can show the story to the people.”
At the time of the making of the original films, there was some controversy and a lot of ‘he said, she said’ bickerings about some of the plotlines of the trilogy being leaked to the press. Prowse took a lot of the blame for the leaks, even though there was much doubt around whether he was the source, and he has remained quite a shunned figure in the eyes of some of the people involved in the making of the original movies. Prowse’s face was also famously not used in the final scenes of the third movie of the trilogy, Return of the Jedi, when Vader’s helmet was finally removed, which was a source of consternation for Prowse.
However, Bestard maintains that Prowse is not bitter about the way things went, back then and ever since.
“He is more disappointed with Lucasfilm,” he says, “the words ‘angry’ or ‘bitter’ are not the real words I would use to describe him. He had a great experience at the beginning, but then it became really uncomfortable, and it was not a good time for him. Everybody from Lucasfilm, when they were shooting the third movie, thought that he had talked to the press and gave a big spoiler of the film.
“But all these years, he has always said ‘I never said anything to the press’, but nobody believes him. We even found the original journalist who did the interview, and he confessed to us that David Prowse never said anything.”
One of the highlights of the documentary, and something that gives a positive shine to what was quite an awkward situation, was that the film makers decided to re-shoot that famous scene, but this time with Prowse’s face used as the face of Darth Vader, rather than with the English actor Sebastian Shaw as in the original film. Prowse seems genuinely thrilled at the end of the documentary by the result of that re-shoot.
“For us it was really important to finish the film, to give back the glory that David didn’t have in the past, and re-shoot that scene,” Bestard says, “we asked David, he was not really sure about it, he thought Lucasfilm might get angry. But we said to him ‘Don’t worry David, we will never show this to an audience’, because it’s really complicated, with copyright, we don’t want to have problems with Lucasfilm. We are small Spanish film makers and Lucasfilm is a big industry. We can’t win that battle!
“So we decided to re-shoot the scene but not show it in the documentary, just show it to him and a few others.”
Do you think the scene will ever be seen beyond that close circle of people? “I don’t know, maybe!” He laughs, “it’s out of my hands. Maybe one day.”
I Am Your Father is available on DVD on 6 April 2016 via Shock Entertainment.