How did you get cast as the most iconic movie character of all time: Darth Vader?
Well, I felt there was a movement in The Force, but then I realised it was the hot curry from the night before.
(Both laugh… hard!)
I got an audition and it was obviously so secretive. There were rumours Darth Vader might be in Rogue One. I got a call back and I really started to feel it was for the part of Darth Vader. I said to my agent “It’s definately Darth Vader” and he said “No, it’s not”. I said “I’m telling you now Joe, it’s Darth Vader because every time he’s at the end of his line he goes (imitates Darth Vader’s breathing)”.
Seriously, I got a call back and then I did start to feel I was going to get the role. Because I’m an open doorway to the presence and spirit of the characters I play. There is a real presence and spirit in Darth Vader, which is unbelievable. He chooses you, you don’t choose him.
And how did you prepare for the role?
I wanted to have the exact movements of Darth Vader. So Paul Kasey, who was the movement coach, and me started practising the movements. I was nearly there but he helped me tweaking some things.
Have you met the original Vader, Dave Prowse?
Lots of times. Probably one of the hardest things was when Dave Prowse contacted me on Twitter when the rumours started. He congratulated me on getting the part of Darth Vader. I said I’m sorry Dave I didn’t get the part. To say that to Darth Vader was pretty hard. I was always true to myself and I would never release anything without the green light. He’s such an iconic character. It felt like there were a lot of tests going on in that year, that they were throwing at me to see if I opened my mouth.
When was your first encounter with the Star Wars saga?
I’m a child of 1972, so when the first one came out I was 5 years old and my dad was taking me out to see it. It was great because everyone was raving about it, beause of the spaceships. We got to the cinema and I was like “where are the spaceships?” We were twenty minutes in the movie and I still hadn’t seen any spaceships. My dad wasn’t really into it and he took me to see the Pink Panther. Star Wars was an iconic film, really special. And I had a feeling… I had something to do with it… I could feel it with The Force…
Well, you are the Lord of the Sith!
What do you regard as the best moment you’ve had playing Darth Vader in Rogue One?
To feel the character. On the first day on the set Gareth Edwards came to the stage and there was a big speaker there, although James Earl Jones would do all the dialogue in post-production. The characters voice and presence came to me and I blew everyone’s socks off when I said in a deep voice “May the Force be with you”. He really came through to me and gave people shivers. There was this scene where Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn, and I had a moment together and he called Gareth over. Gareth turned his back to me and I never ever knew what was being said. I wondered if everything was going allright? Gareth then went back to his monitor. A year and a half later I found out what he said… which I won’t say exactly because there’s a swear word in there and there might be kids listening.
No, just go ahead! I will make sure the kids won’t hear this.
Ok, Krennic said “It’s fucking Darth Vader! It’s the real Darth Vader!”
(Laughs) That’s great!There were some reshoots. Were a lot of your scenes cut?
There’s a certain person in the UK that caused a few rumours out there that weren’t true. There was one scene that got cut and that was from the trailer. You see a big red moon and the back of Darth Vader’s helmet. I did this scene.
What hurt me really is the fact that they tried to strip the character. “What part is you? What part was played by someone else?” I know the fans want to know but it’s stripping the character. It’s Darth Vader. There’s one Darth Vader and it’s him, the character. who chooses the actor. They should just move along and enjoy the character. It’s good to see Vader back and I think both of us (editors note: the other one is Daniel Naprous, who also played Vader in Rogue One) did a good job.
I think that is a perfect answer.
What was the funniest or weirdest thing that happened on the set of Rogue One?
It was a very serious set! When I’m in character I don’t mess around. It was Lord Vader. I knew this character could change my life, it has opened a doorway. During the last audition a dresser put Darth Vader’s helmet on my head and the presence changed. Darth Vader took over. I turned and the dresser genuinely crapped his pants. Now that’s some scary stuff! You don’t mess with the dark side!
What is your opinion of the movie Rogue One?
Awesome. It’s not just about Darth Vader; he’s just a very small element of a huge production. It was awesome of the director and the producers to believe in me. I can’t wait to do the next character.
Is there a chance you’ll return to Star Wars then?
The next character as in whatever character that may be.
Are there any plans currently?
If there is I don’t know about it.
They haven’t contacted you but you’ll love to do one.
Yeah, it was great. I lie to land a role, play a character and move on. I never knock a character. I like to take the memory from them and become their friend and then move on after having done a good job. If they call me back, great!
I will send this tape to Kathleen Kennedy.
Yeah, if she’s listening, she’s a beautiful lady by the way, the whole production team was very nice to me.
Thanks for the interview! Is there anything you would like to add?
If there are any kids out there, follow your dreams. I’m a dyslexic Darth Vader. I couldn’t read right for a very long time. It isn’t a problem, just keep on doing your sports, follow your dreams, do good, do well in school, and just take care.