'Star Wars' icons share stories at Salt Lake Comic Con

Published: Thursday, Sept. 5 2013 12:25 p.m. MDT

David Prowse (left) and Peter Mayhew (right) spoke at Salt Lake Comic Con Thursday afternoon.

Katie Harmer, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Star Wars fans at Salt Lake Comic Con met two of the films' most iconic figures — Darth Vader and Chewbacca.

David Prowse and Peter Mayhew, two actors who starred in the George Lucas trilogy, took to the convention’s main stage Thursday afternoon to standing ovations from the crowd.

While James Earl Jones supplied the voice for Darth Vader, Prowse was the actor inside the Vader suit. Mayhew, similarly, was the actor behind the furry face of Chewbacca.

During the hour-long question-and-answer session, the two actors answered questions about their involvement in the films, including how they got their roles.

Mayhew and Prowse were each considered for both Darth Vader and Chewbacca. Luckily, the actors both quickly knew which role they wanted.

When Prowse was first contacted by Lucas about the roles, he was told there were two parts available: a large hairy character named Chewbacca, or the villain. Prowse said he immediately replied, “I’ll take the villain,” because “you always remember the villain."

According to Prowse, Lucas responded, “I think you’ve made the right choice because no one is going to forget this villain.”

When Mayhew arrived for his audition, he saw the costumes for both Vader and Chewbacca.

“I looked around and saw Chewie, 8-foot-plus and blue-eyed, and I thought that’s mine. That’s mine,” he said.

Mayhew (who stands 7-foot-3) said that during an interview portion of the audition, “I did the natural thing — I stood up, and that was basically the end of the interview.”

Within a few weeks, Chewbacca was born. Mayhew said it was a transformative experience to put on the costume.

“As soon as that mask comes on, I become Chewie,” Mayhew said. “You take the head off and you can go back to being a normal person again. Sure, you're sweaty and nasty, but you’re a normal person again.”

Prowse said the only problem he encountered with his costume was the Darth Vader helmet and mask were made too big. The helmet was lined with padding to make it fit. The eye lenses were also darkened so Prowse’s eyes could not be seen.

Between the padding, lenses and out-of-order filing of scenes, Prowse said he was in for several surprises during the films’ premieres.

“I was gob-smacked,” he said. “The one thing that gob-smacked me most of all was that I didn’t know that I was Luke Skywalker’s father. They kept it very secret from me.”

Prowse also didn’t know prominent actor Jones was to do Darth Vader’s voice. Throughout the filming, Prowse had preformed the character’s lines, though his voice was muffled by the mask and helmet.

“All of the sudden, I hear this voice coming out of Darth Vader, and I think, 'Oh my goodness, that’s not me,’” he recalled.

Mayhew said, at first, it was jarring to see the film

“The first time that you see your face on a big screen, it can be frightening,” Mayhew told the crowd. “It’s one of those things. You’re looking out and the camera is looking out. So it’s reversed.”

Both actors spoke of their amazement at the fans and the poplular following the Star Wars franchise continues to have.

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