Rogue One: Why it took multiple actors to play Darth Vader (exclusive)

Tom Butler
Senior Editor

Who actually plays Darth Vader is a tricky question to answer, and one that becomes even more complicated when you factor in his appearance in ‘Rogue One – A Star Wars Story’.

The credits for ‘Rogue One’, which sees the Sith Lord returning to the big screen for the first time since 2005’s ‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith’, lists three names for Vader: James Earl Jones provides his iconic voice, while Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous are responsible for the physical performance.

We asked director Gareth Edwards why it took more than one actor to play Vader and it sounds like scheduling issues, possibly caused by the reshoots, prevented one performer from claiming the role for himself.

“We have Spencer who played [Vader] in certain moments,” Edwards told Yahoo Movies, “And then Dan did some other moments that I can’t get into. But it was just the process of making the film. We shot at different times throughout the year and certain people were available more than others.”

Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous – Credit: Getty Images/The Devil\s Horsemen

Reading between the lines we understand Wilding was inside the iconic suit for the moments seen in the film’s trailers, while Naprous stepped in to play Vader in another scene towards the end of the film, that we believe was shot during the extensive reshoots.

Edwards admits it was hard finding the right man for the job.

“You think to yourself you just put someone in the suit and it’s Darth,” he explained, “But it isn’t at all. We had to audition a lot of people to try and find people who could do the walk and feel like that’s him. And you can’t teach it either.”

Wilding, whose credits include Mean Guard in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, Minotaur in ‘Wrath of the Titans’, and Prometheus in ‘Victor Frankenstein’, and Naprous, a well-known stuntman famed for his horse riding and swordsmanship, join a small but elite club of men who’ve played Vader on the big screen.

Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

Prowse played Vader in the original trilogy with Bob Anderson stepping in for some of the more complex lightsaber battles, veteran theatre actor Sebastian Shaw played the Sith Lord when we was unmasked in ‘Return of the Jedi, while Hayden Christensen donned the costume (with help from some shoe lifts) in ‘Revenge of the Sith’.

Regardless of the man underneath the suit, his presence on set was still impressive.

“The design of that costume and that mask,” explains Ben Mendelsohn who plays Orson Krennic in ‘Rogue One’, “And the overall effect with James Earl Jones’ beautiful voice and the [heavy breathing] – all that – it’s incredibly powerful. So that stays with you.”

“And when Darth turns up [on set] everyone shuts the [hell] up.”

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‘Rogue One – A Star Wars Story’ is in UK cinemas from 15 December. Watch a report from the film’s UK premiere last night below.