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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 08:02 GMT
Superhero with a dark side
The Empire Strikes Back
Darth Vader: Dave Prowse with voice by James Earl Jones
Queen Elizabeth II has honoured a Star Wars veteran at a Buckingham Palace investiture.

Dave Prowse, 67, who played the arch-villain Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, collected the MBE he received for services to charity and road safety in the New Year's honours list.

The 6ft 7in former Mr Universe donned the costume of the road safety hero, Green Cross Code Man, from 1976 to 1990, encouraging children to stop, look, listen and think before crossing the road.
Green Cross Code Man
"Always use the Green Cross Code, because I won't be there when you cross the road"

"Star Wars was just about to come out, and Superman was on the cards," says Mr Prowse, thinking back to his call-up as the Green Cross Code Man.

"So (the campaign organisers) decided they wanted to have their own superhero to front the road safety ads."

When the government launched the Green Cross Code campaign in 1970, 616 child pedestrians were killed on roads in the UK. By 1998, this figure had fallen to 115.

Earlier this year, he squeezed back into his green and white body costume for two weeks to promote reflective armbands and safe night driving.

Bit parts

Between stints as Vader and Green Cross Code Man, Mr Prowse pursued his life-long devotion to physical fitness.

He opened the Star Gym in Southwark, south London, in 1969, where he trained Christopher Reeve to play Superman, Daniel Day Lewis for Last of the Mohicans and Peter Davison for Dr Who.

His own film credits - for characters such as Man in Cinema and Creature - read like the listings for an incredibly strange film festival.

In addition to sweeping about the Star Wars sets in flowing cloak and death mask, Mr Prowse appeared in several Hammer horror flicks, a Carry On film and the James Bond spoof Casino Royale.

He also worked with the infamous purveyor of surreal soft-porn, Russ Myer, and appeared as a bodyguard in A Clockwork Orange: "That's how I got Star Wars - George Lucas remembered me from Stanley Kubrick's film."

Mr Prowse was paid just 6,000 for Star Wars. Although his pay packet swelled for the next two films, he did not receive a cut of the profits.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | Entertainment
18 Oct 99 | Entertainment
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