The Northern Echo conducted an interview with Dave Prowse when he released his autobiography a few years ago. We reproduce it here, as a tribute to a man who had a remarkable career.

He played one of the most recognised characters in movie history, but it’s a more prosaic role which fills him with the most pride. Andrew White speaks to Dave Prowse.

DAVE PROWSE has been a been a Mr Universe contender, a champion weightlifter and a friend to royalty, film stars and politicians.

  • Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dies aged 85

The Bristol-born actor was Superman’s personal trainer, is a lifelong friend of the Incredible Hulk and has twice played Frankenstein’s monster He’s appeared in some of the biggest movies of all time, worked with some of the most respected directors and actors in the business and appeared in some of the most iconic shows in British television history.

And of course – after donning the black suit of one of the screen’s greatest ever villains in the original Star Wars trilogy – Dave Prowse IS Darth Vader, But ask him what has been the pinnacle of his career and he’ll answer instantly: “The Green Cross Code Man.”

The superhero clad in less-than-flattering green tights who taught a generation of youngsters how to cross the road safely is what Prowse considers his greatest achievement by some distance.

“Without a doubt the Green Cross Code Man takes pride of place,” he says. “It became very much a vocation, I got so involved in it.

“I absolutely loved it. I really enjoy people coming up to me and saying, ‘Do you realise you saved my life?’ It’s amazing.”

Prowse was the Green Cross Code Man for 14 years from 1976 – starring in several fondly remembered road safety adverts and then promoting the message in schools up and down the country.

“The Green Cross Code Man gave me something that no other job ever could – it allowed me to help save thousands of lives,” says Prowse with undisguised pride.

And the statistics back up his claim. When Prowse started in the job, more than 40,000 children a year were being killed or injured on Britain’s roads. That figure had halved to 20,000 by the time he hung his suit up in 1990.

Prowse has especially fond memories of the days he used to visit schools in his Green Cross Code Man persona and his devotion to the cause earned him his greatest accolade, an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List of 2000 for services to road safety and charity.

“It was a wonderful time,” says Prowse, who admits he still has the suit he wore with such aplomb.

“I loved every minute of it and if they asked me to be the Green Cross Code Man again, I’d jump at it.”

For most of the adverts, Prowse’s voice was over-dubbed because it was feared many people would not be able to decipher his lilting West Country accent.

It was something he would experience again in what was to become his most famous role.

WHEN George Lucas offered him the job as Darth Vader on Star Wars – he initially asked him to play Chewbacca – Prowse had no idea he would not be providing the voice as well.

He spoke the Vader lines on set, only for them to be famously over-dubbed later by James Earl Jones.

Prowse accepts this was the right decision, but the fact that he was not told was symptomatic of the attitude of the film-makers “They were paranoid about security,” he says.

“They were frightened to death that anything to do with the film was going to get out – that was the biggest problem. I had to be so careful.”

Although the security issues soured his experiences on Star Wars, Prowse still speaks warmly of the whole experience and has nothing but kind words for Lucas and his co-stars.

It is a sentiment repeated throughout his new autobiography, Straight From the Force’s Mouth.

In the book, which includes a foreword from Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno, Prowse details the remarkable career he built after being written off with arthritis at the age of 15.

After seeing his Mr Universe ambitions thwarted because of his “ugly feet”, he became British weightlifting champion and ran his own gym before becaming an actor – since when he has never looked back.

His movie credits include A Clockwork Orange, Jabberwocky and three Hammer horror films, he was Christopher Reeve’s physical trainer for the first Superman film and he’s worked with such luminaries as, Ridley Scott, Peter Sellars and Howard Keel.

His impressive list of TV credits includes Morecambe and Wise, Up Pompeii, The Benny Hill Show, The Two Ronnies and Dr Who.

And he has picked up a wealth of stories and anecdotes along the way featuring, among many others, Esther Rantzen, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, John Wayne – and a fruitbat named Balls.

Despite recently having had a hip, femur and knee replacement, which has limited his workload this year, 76-year-old Prowse is not planning to slow down.

“It’s been an interesting career and all because of the fact that I was big and muscular and – though I say so myself – reasonably good looking, he says.

“Everything about my career has been enjoyable.

Life has been good. I’ve travelled all over the world doing personal appearances – and all at somebody else’s expense.”

Straight From The Force’s Mouth is available from Apex Publishing, priced £20.