Tales From The Dark Side: Horror Actors and Star Wars Alumni that are Authors
This next entry in the horror actors-turned-authors series focuses on those who have also starred in the much beloved Star Wars franchise. Likewise, each of them is as well known in the horror genre as they are within the Star Wars cinematic universe. Among this group are the legendary film stars Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) and his fellow Hammer Film alumni Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) and David Prowse (Darth Vader). Finally, it is worth noting that each of them listed here has written autobiographies/memoirs.
First on this list of Star Wars and horror alumni is the Grand Moff himself, Peter Cushing. Long before his villainous role as the planet-destroying sociopath, Willem Tarkin, Cushing had established himself within the horror film genre, specifically with the legendary horror production company Hammer Films. Cushing’s film resume often cast him playing a heroic character such as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Dracula’s nemesis Professor Van Helsing. Cushing often collaborated with Christopher Lee another Hammer Films/Star Wars alumni who was best known for playing Dracula in the 1970’s Hammer Film productions.
Cushing’s bibliography consisted of a couple of memoirs that were later published in a single collection. The first of these was the self-titled Peter Cushing: An Autobiography followed up later by Past Forgetting: Memoirs of the Hammer Years. Cushing’s autobiographical works talked about a range of topics including both his career and his deep affection for his wife Helen Cushing, who tragically died in 1971 from complications caused by emphysema.
Peter Cushing’s autobiography’s also revealed the darker secrets of his life. Among these was the origins of his fear of the dark, that stemmed from his father locking him in a cellar as a child. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only trauma he suffered from a parent. Cushing’s mother, who had wished for a daughter instead of a son, took to dressing him up in girls clothing as a child, along with letting his hair grow long and decorating it with bows and ribbons.
Cushing’s traumatic history sounded more in line with what you would expect from his fictional antagonist Grand Moff Tarkin to have experienced, and would have been reasonable enough for him to be a bitter or dangerous person. However, it didn’t negatively affect the actor that way at all. Instead, interviews with those who him the best, regarded Peter Cushing as a gentle, kind-hearted man.
Christopher Lee was among the most prolific British character actors of his generation starring in 300 + films. Lee was especially known for portraying some of film and literatures most well known villains, and his career spanned decades. Lee’s debut role began with Hammer Films The Curst of Frankenstein in 1957 as the Frankenstein Monster, which also co-starred his fellow Star Wars alumni and best friend, Peter Cushing. His relationship with Hammer Films would later lead to him being cast as the preeminent Dracula of his era. Not just content at portraying monsters, Lee was known for his roles as human villains too, including most famously as the main antagonist, Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film, The Man With The Golden Gun.
Lee continued to play villains well into an age where most of his peers had either died, or were long-retired.. Among these prominent roles was as Saruman in the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and later as the fallen Jedi-turned-Sith Separatist Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequel films.
Lee was a multi-talented entertainer who not only applied his talents to acting but in music, prose, and voice-acting as well. Lee’s credits in regards to the realm of publishing included several fantasy-horror anthologies/collections that bore his name. He ‘ghost edited’ these alongside his frequent collaborator and editor Michael Parry. These works included: Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate/From the Archives of Evil (US), Christopher Lee’s Archives of Evil/From the Archives of Evil 2 (US), and Christopher Lee’s Omnibus of Evil/ The Great Villains: An Omnibus of Evil.
Besides collaborating on those self-titled collections, Lee also wrote an autobiography titled: Tall, Dark, and Gruesome. This was later expanded upon and re-released under the new title of Lord of Misrule: The Autobiography of Christopher Lee in 2003 by Orion Books. This book goes in depth about his eventful life, speaking not only of his extensive movie career but also other interesting facts such as royal lineage and his service in the Royal Air Force during WWII.
Another Hammer Film and Star Wars alumni on this list is none other than the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader actor, David Prowse. Prowse who was the physical actor that played the role of the iconic villain of the Original Star Wars trilogy, was also an alumni of Hammer Films. Before taking on the role of Darth Vader, Prowse was known for his portrayal of the Frankenstein monster, first in The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) and later in Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974).
Prowse wrote an autobiography on his life and career titled: Straight From The Force’s Mouth: The Autobiography of David Prowse, MBE. Other than giving his personal account of playing Star Wars most iconic villain, Prowse also wrote of his eventful life that included: being a multi-championship winning bodybuilder, a fitness trainer to celebrities, and a public safety worker called the Green Cross Code Man, who was a spokesman for children’s safety. This book also had an illustrated companion that showcased photographs collected throughout his career and personal life.
Prowse’s book also delves into the negative history that resulted from a falling out with Star Wars creator, George Lucas. According to Prowse, this notorious feud was so bad that he was himself banned from attending all Star Wars-related conventions and even from participating in any further films of the franchise.
Prowse who was both a well-known U.K. bodybuilder and fitness trainer also wrote another book besides an autobiography. Published in 1979, Fitness Is Fun was a fitness book written for children to help instill an interest in physical exercise and good health practices.
Last on this list of Star Wars/Horror actors-turned-authors is Warwick Davis, known for both playing the Ewok Wicket W. Warwick in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi/The Rise of Skywalker, and the titular villain from the 1990’s Leprechaun horror franchise.
Davis was 12 years old when he made his acting debut as Wicket W. Warrick, the little Ewok that befriended Princess Leia after she was separated from Luke Skywalker following a chase scene with the Empire’s biker scouts. Since then, Davis has gone on to set a record for the variety of Star Wars appearances/characters he has played and being the other actor besides Anthony Daniels to play a part throughout the entire saga. Along with his contribution to the Star Wars universe, Davis is also known for playing in another Lucasfilm property, the Willow film and Disney + series.
Besides his frequent collaborations with Lucasfilm, Warwick is also known for playing the devilish little imp with a lust for gold in the Leprechaun series. Those films have become cult classics for both their horror and the humor, both of which Davis’ performance has been an integral part of making it an entertaining franchise.
Davis wrote an autobiography of his life titled: Size Matters Not: The Extraordinary Life and Career of Warwick Davis. This book not only tells of how he came to star in one of the biggest movie franchises in cinematic history but also of his other accomplishments, as well as the day-to-day challenges that a person of his stature faces.
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My name is Jason Dwayne Ivey. I was born in Dillon, SC and raised in rural North Carolina. I am a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke where I majored in Computer Graphics. My true passion though is writing. I’ve had a few credits to my name so far including: winning a “Last Man Standing” contest with Wizard Magazine, being a finalist in a Game of Thrones compendium for an essay of mine, interviewing a New York times best-selling author for a Star Wars website, and having a bunch of letters published in several Marvel comic books. Besides writing, I am also a huge movie fan (action, sci-fi, horror), love reading (comics, Stephen King, A. Lee Martinez, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not), and enjoy the action and theatrics of professional wrestling. I’ve been living in the same rural area I was raised for nearly 40 years now, with my family, and several pets. As far as life goals go I hope to one day be a professional author, restauranteur, and to work in the comic/film industry. As for any horror-related experiences I’ve met Gunnar Hansen and Ken Forree years ago at a local halloween themed fund raiser. Oh and I’ve met Steve Niles too. Then there is my personal project that I hope to publish one day which is a fictional universe about monsters inside of a specially-built prison.
Okay, well, in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”