Tag Archives: David Prowse

Elstree 1976 (2015) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Elstree 1976

Director: Jon Spira
Writer: Jon Spira
Stars: Paul Blake, Jeremy Bulloch, John Chapman, Anthony Forrest, Laurie Goode, Garrick Hagon, Derek Lyons, Angus MacInnes and David Prowse

I found this documentary a little hard to come by but finally tracked down a copy and after enjoying the David Prowse documentary “I am your Father” last year I have to admit that I was looking forward to this one just as much. I thought the trailer was interesting and the movie’s poster was pretty cool. Sadly “Elstree 1976” becomes a dull and uninteresting documentary about lesser known actors and extras reminiscing about their time on the set of Star Wars (1977) and how making the film affected their lives.

The focus on these extras at times was uninteresting but there was some anecdotes that worked and  particularly from Jeremy Bulloch, Garrick Hagon and David Prowse. I knew Angus MacInnes was part of the Rebellion’s attack on the Death Star but the rest of these extras rambled on a bit about playing squash with Kiera Knightly’s father and another explaining taking too much Valium for a backache. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a documentary about ordinary people with an extraordinary story to tell and I thought this would work here but unfortunately the focus is on more mundane details. The Stormtrooper who hit his head on the bay doors said he couldn’t see out of the helmet and claims there are other “actors” out there claiming they played that particular Stormtrooper. Talk about fighting over the crumbs.

Although a welcome relief to see Jeremy Bulloch I was little confused on why he was appearing in a film called Elstree 1976 when in fact he didn’t enter the fray until a few years later whilst filming The Empire Strikes Back in the late 1970’s. But nevertheless perhaps the film maker needed another “big” name in there along with David Prowse who we get to see in that infamous clip from A Clockwork Orange and his experience with Stanley Kubrick, which I found a little amusing.

The part of the documentary that really sunk this was asking the question on “What are you doing now?” which was painful to watch at times as most of them didn’t have really anything interesting to say. I felt these people either didn’t want to admit that 1976 was the highlight of their showbiz career and the others who went into full flow were slightly deluded. Don’t get me wrong I am not having a go at these extras, but a little perspective is missing here. If the truth be told, after the tales of Star Wars, you just lose interest in their stories as it becomes desperate in one of the extras saying they had bit parts in Indiana Jones and Superman films and became depressed because it never led to bigger roles and a female extra who apparently appeared in the Cantina scene dated Superman himself Christopher Reeve whilst filming Superman. Wow.

Overall Elstree 1976, didn’t deliver and part of me takes responsibility for that as I expected more. I thought this film would use stock footage quite a bit during this period and there would be some reveals about some of the more known actors. Sadly the interviews became self indulgent and quite bluntly sad. I have enjoyed some rather great documentaries about Star Wars in the past from “The People vs. George Lucas (2010)”, Empire of Dreams: The Story of the ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy (2004) and I Am Your Father (2015). This film doesn’t come close to these and sadly I cannot recommend watch this.

I Am Your Father (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

I AM YOUR FATHER

Directors: Toni Bestard, Marcos Cabotá
Writers: Toni Bestard, Marcos Cabotá
Stars: David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Jeremy Bulloch, Ben Burtt, Gary Kurtz

I Am Your Father is a documentary about actor David Prowse’s career in film and in particular the Hammer Horror films and the man behind the mask of the biggest movie villain in cinematic history, Darth Vader in the Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977-1983)

In the climate unmasking scene of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi (Episode VI), classically trained actor Sebastian Shaw, who was 78 years old at the time played the face of the man behind the mask, Anakin Skywalker. Much to the horror of David Prowse who believes he was being used on another set deliberately during Shaw’s portrayal of The Chosen One, the one who would bring balance to the force.

In fact when the rumours circulated within the studio, Prowse who had worked up to this point believing one day he would be the one in the suit being unmasked, couldn’t sleep that night worrying about someone coming in to fill his shoes at the last moment after waiting nearly six years for this moment.

Now Lucas has always stated that he never intended to use Prowse’s Voice or Face for the portrayal of Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker. We will never know if he did in fact mention these two important pieces of information to the man in the suit, but judging by Prowse’s words in this documentary the news of another actor was a bombshell to him.

I felt Prowse had long accepted that the voice of the Sith Lord was being handed over to the legendary James Earl Jones to match the sound of the respirator effect in Vader’s breathing shortly after post production began on Star Wars (Episode IV: A  New Hope) and was clinging onto the bigger reveal sometime down the line.

I Am Your Father’s Director teases the audience that he intends reshooting the scene with Prowse restored to the role of the dying Vader / Anakin on the second Death Star, with permission from Prowse to take part in the reshoot and of course Lucasfilm to allow him to inter slice his scenes into a fan version. Prowse agreed, even in his old age and discomforting posture like stance wantedto do the scene.

You can’t help but feel for the man and can also understand his willingness to recreate something he felt was robbed of him 30 years plus earlier.

The Documentary also shows Prowse’s rise to fame as the man who always has his face covered in prosthetics or masks as most directors hired him for his stature being a professional bodybuilder who trained the legendary Christopher Reeves in preparation for Superman: The Movie (1978) in Reeves own word describes Prowse as the man who took a twig like guy and built him up to be the man of steel.

Even playing roles like Frankenstein and just as famous for his strict workout regimes Prowse came across as a Gentleman and showed a softer side to his character portraying The Green Cross Code Man (a safety campaign that ran with David Prowse from 1975 To 1990 by the National Road Safety Committee) and in between shooting his Vader scenes.

Personally that is how I remember David Prowse from those Safety campaigns outwith Star Wars. It reassured me as a young child that the menacing man in the black suit was in fact a good guy whenever I was frightened when I heard that respiratory breathing.

To date Prowse has never been invited on to the official gathering of Star Wars (Celebration) as a panel guest by Lucasfilm. There are a few instances in the documentary about the floundering relationship between Prowse, Lucas and Lucasfilm involving alleged leaks to the press during production of Episode V and VI which Prowse has always strongly denied and admitted it effects him to this day.

The documentary starred many guests including original trilogy producers Gary Kurtz and Robert Watts and The Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno who all gave good in depth interviews and weren’t afraid to give their opinion on Prowse’s relationship with Lucasfilm. Also interviews by the late Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) and Sound Designer Ben Burtt inputted also but I felt they were a bit more conservative in their views on the subject as they still have a big part to play in the Star Wars family.

The I Am Your Father documentary very nearly shows part of the scene that was reshot with Prowse, but cuts away before fans of the actor are treated to what they have dreamed of seeing since 1983.

Lucasfilm did not give permission to film to Inter slice this sequence. But directors Toni Bestard and Marcos Cabotá went ahead anyway as they believed with David Prowse now aged 81 that there wouldn’t be many chances left to pull this off.

Maybe one day Lucasfilm will permit the public being able to see this sequence, even just to see David Prowse fulfilling his dream as Anakin Skywalker and more importantly maybe one day in the not so distant future we will see David Prowse invited on to the Celebration stage. We can only HOPE.