Sebastian Shaw is the English actor who appeared as Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi in 1983. The role was not played by David Prowse. Shaw died in December 1994 at 89.
Prowse died in London on November 28 at the age of 85 following a battle with a short illness.
David Prowse told Rock Cellar Magazine in an October 2012 interview that he was never told that James Earl-Jones would be performing the voice of Darth Vader. Despite the deceit, Prowse said that he thought Jones did a “wonderful” job. During the interview, Prowse said that he hadn’t spoken to Star Wars creator George Lucas since the filming of Return of the Jedi wrapped in 1983.
David Prowse Said Sebastian Shaw Got the Role Because He Was a Friend of Alec Guinness
Prowse went on to say why Sebastian Shaw was brought in to play the role of Darth Vader when the supervillain’s face is finally revealed during the climax of Return of the Jedi. Prowse said that Shaw was a friend of Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the movie. Shaw was having financial problems at the time and he reached out to Guinness to ask if there was a role in one of the Star Wars movies available. Prowse added:
Unfortunately, everybody was expecting to see me, and unfortunately for me, they got to see Sebastian Shaw. I would have loved to play that part. And it had nothing to do with any problems they were having with me, or anything like that. It was simply Alec doing his friend a favor and George was doing him a favor, as it were.
David Prowse Said a Daily Mail Reporter Informed Him About Sebastian Shaw’s Presence in the Movie
In a 2007 interview, Prowse told The Void that it was revealed to him that Shaw would take the role during an interview with a Daily Mail reporter in the early 1980s. Prowse said the reporter asked him, “You know you’re being killed off in this movie, don’t you? And another guy’s playing the dying Darth Vader?” Prowse replied, “They wouldn’t do that – they wouldn’t go and unmask somebody else after I’ve played the part for six years.”
Prowse said that after he showed his call sheet to the reporter which identified Sebastian Shaw as playing the part of Anakin Skywalker. The next day, the story ran in the Daily Mail. Prowse attributes that interview as the reason his relationship with George Lucas broke down. Prowse said, “As much as I’ve tried to tell my story, Lucasfilm had set their minds to what they wanted to believe. I never received an apology from them. I haven’t spoken to George Lucas since 1983.”
Shaw Was a Real-Life Hero, Joining the Royal Air Force at the age of 34 Following the Outbreak of World War II
Sebastian Shaw’s obituary was published in The Guardian newspaper on December 29, 1994. The tribute referred to Shaw as a “handsome and accomplished actor of great modesty.” During his career, Shaw went by the nickname, “Buster.” At the age of 34 when World War II broke out, Shaw joined the Royal Air Force as an AC Plonk, the lowest grade in the service. Following the war, Shaw went on to perform mainly on the London stage, including many Shakespearean roles.
His Guardian obituary does not mention his appearance in Return of the Jedi. It does mention that at the age of 73, Shaw was painted in the nude by his nephew, Brian Ocean. The tribute ends with the words, “He was a breathtaking phenomenon.”