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A Star Wars fact I have seen a lot of times is that the original actor for Darth Vader, David Prowse did not know his voice was going to be dubbed over by James Earl Jones.

Wookieepedia claims this, with a note that there is no source:

He would speak the lines from within the suit during filming in his Bristol accent. However, as this ultimately clashed with George Lucas's idea about Vader, James Earl Jones was dubbed over as Vader's voice — a fact unknown to Prowse at the time of filming.

Screen Rant also makes the claim:

During A New Hope, Prowse thought that he was also the voice of the imposing villain. Carrie Fisher said in the documentary Empire of Dreams that Prowse's voice was so banal that they would call him "Darth Farmer," which makes it less surprising that George Lucas would choose to cast a separate actor to voice the intimidating Sith Lord.

After discovering that his voice had been replaced with that of James Earl Jones, Prowse was so frustrated that he stopped learning his lines for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Instead, he would improvise lines, sometimes speaking complete gibberish, forcing his co-stars to respond as if he had said the correct line.

The some articles suggest this was the plan from the start - e.g. Wikipedia and this making-of video, but David Prowse is quoted by The Sun in 2015 suggesting it was originally planned to be re-dubbed by him but the producers didn't want to fly him out to record it:

People thought I was upset that my voice was not used. But I did the voice all the way through the movie.
“It had to be re-recorded as everything was no good.
“But they forgot to get me to do the dubbing before they went back to America and it was too expensive to fly me out there for the half-dozen or so lines I had, so they got James Earl Jones, who did a wonderful job.

Is there a definitive answer to this?

  • What would you consider a definitive answer? Aren't you asking us to read the mind of someone? – Oddthinking Apr 14 at 17:28
  • OK now I really want to see the Star Wars where Darth Vader has a Bristol accent! – colmde Apr 15 at 23:49
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Edited - added remarks on statements made in Empire of Dreams related to Vader's sound.

David Prowse was under the impression he would re-read his line in a recording studio and they would use that audio rather than the recorded audio which was muffled because of the helmet. He tells the story as if it was a last-minute scramble to get the lines re-recorded and so they used James Earl Jones instead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amAmUYp2Apk

In the documentary Empire of Dreams the narrator makes the claim that

"Lucas had never intended to use the on-set vocal performance of David Prowse"

, but Lucas himself never makes that claim on camera. Ken Ralston, a member of the effects team, makes it sound like they didn't have a firm plan by the time the film went to post-production stating

"We didn't know what Darth sounded like... is it going to be some Scottish guy or what is this?"

https://youtu.be/Nw_VeZk_q0U?t=3827

After the first movie released, and Prowse was aware that his voice would be cut, he started to improvise his lines.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-4044834/David-Prowse-admits-purposely-messed-lines-Darth-Vader-filming-Star-Wars.html

It's rumored that this was more than just good-hearted fun and his antics caused friction between himself and the rest of the cast, but I can't find any actual source to confirm that. Prowse is quoted as saying

"Unfortunately I’ve been barred for some obscure reason—also [from] Disney Star Wars Weekends. Ask Mr. Lucas."

One possibility posed by the Daily Beast is that the ban had to do with his participation in The People vs. George Lucas, so it's possible he really was just having fun with it after he learned he was being overdubbed, and any drama occurred off-set. But either way, he was definitely aware by that point.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-the-original-darth-vader-is-now-persona-non-grata-at-star-wars-events

So, definitively, Prowse did not know he would be overdubbed prior to the release of Episode IV, and did know while filming Episode V and Episode VI.

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  • The Empire of Dreams reference is actually in the question. He clearly knew after the release of the first film. His ban at Star Wars events also doesn't seem relevant. – Oddthinking Apr 14 at 17:31
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    I agree. I almost took it out more than once. I included it because people use the apparent feud as evidence Prowse felt snubbed by the decision to use a different voice, but there's nothing definitively linking their falling out and the overdubbing. Prowse and others consistently maintain through several interviews that no one knew what exactly was gong to be done about the voice until post production, and Lucas's decision was amicable, not embarrassing. – hSherlock Apr 14 at 18:12

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