You can't mention the name Dave Prowse without immediately picturing Darth Vader in your head. Of course, others donned the suit including stunt performer Bob Anderson, Sebastian Shaw, and more recently Hayden Christensen, but it's Dave Prowse that folks will always remember.
I've known Dave for many years and ran his first official site so we've had many a conversation about Star Wars over dinners and hanging out at conventions. He gets a bad rap sometimes for his honesty when talking about certain things but for the most part, fans adore him and are always glad to see him. When he was ill a few years back, the outpouring of support was just amazing.
Dave feels that he was, around the time of JEDI, quite ostracized and left out of a lot of shooting. He attributes this to the media and the fact that they like to print things out of context. This is sometimes true, of course. Over the years, however, Dave's had a few quotes contributed to him that caused some controversy. Some he said, others were stretched for sensationalism. They called him loose-lipped and printed some things about the films that revealed secrets. Lucasfilm of course reacted how they felt best, and who could blame them? Dave's a stand up guy but he's made a mistake or two when dealing with the media over the years and has since learned how to be more careful.
I always maintained that while he may have slipped a fact here or there, he most certainly didn't do it maliciously and of course the comments were examined with a microscope, making things worse. In any case, that's all water over the bridge. Dave is very grateful to Lucasfilm and George for everything they've done for him. He always wanted me to make that clear to the fans. Without them, he wouldn't have the lifestyle he has today.
So when my friend Bernie Alonge wrote in with an article saying that Dave knew in 1978 that Vader was Luke's father, I was a little skeptical. However, he then showed me the scanned page of the 1978 issue of "Little Shoppe of Horrors" magazine (Issue #4, April 1978 Page 105 (split): "Darth Vader Lives") and there was Dave talking about Vader being Luke's father...two years before the film was out! [click image]
The trouble with this article is: How did Dave know? Did he see a script? Dave's always told me he was just given the pages he needed at the time.
How, then, could Irvin Kershner fool Dave with that famous story of changing dialogue on the set when shooting the "I am your father" scene? Kersh actually gave Dave other words to say to trick him into thinking Obi-Wan was Luke's father. If Dave already knew, why would he fall for this and wouldn't he ask why it was changed? It doesn't make much sense.
My guess is that Dave was theorizing and speculating in this article (and was correct!) but the author made it look like Dave knew about it and was revealing some big secrets. If I were Lucasfilm, I wouldn't be happy about it either but I would talk to Dave privately in any case. I don't think that ever happened. They were just more careful around him.
So the question remains: did he know? Next time I see or talk to him I'll remember to ask, as I hadn't seen this until a few months ago and am just getting around to posting it. I wouldn't make assumptions, though. I hardly think they just handed him the whole script and let him run wild with it. If I recall correctly, they were numbered and even color coded for secrecy. Maybe someone higher up mentioned it? Who knows. It doesn't make sense when you pair it with the facts around Kersh's big trick though. We know that's all true and it's mentioned in the "Empire of Dreams" documentary on the DVDs. Plus in all the times I've talked to Dave he never mentioned to me that he knew about the Vader/Luke thing before hand. In fact, he told me just the opposite - that he learned it at the premiere with everyone else.
Still, it's fun to look at the old magazines and interviews and cast our minds back to a different time I like to call BJJ (Before Jar Jar).
See also: Google Groups Thread
* Special thanks to Bernie Alonge for the Flashback.