In an auction house far, far away (well, Bristol actually), the enduring power of the force was clear.
A Darth Vader helmet sold for £2,200, more than five times the top estimate, and a signed picture of Alec Guinness in his Obi-Wan Kenobi robes was snapped up for £3,100, treble what was anticipated.
Someone, somewhere, paid £9,000 for a prototype lightsaber, the weapon of choice of Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga, which the Earthlings at East Bristol Auctions had judged might bring in £80-£120.
Hundreds of items hoarded and collected by David Prowse, the Bristolian who played Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, were sold off in his home city following his death, aged 85, last year. The auction raised a total of £400,000.
Naturally the sale took place on May the 4th – a nod to the franchise’s iconic line “May the force be with you” – with a percentage of proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Research UK. Prowse died after a short illness having been living with Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade.
The item that attracted the highest price was Prowse’s The Empire Strikes Back script, which went for £23,000. The plot twist revealing Luke Skywalker’s true parenthood was left out to keep it secret.
It may be no surprise that the hardware – the helmets, the weapons – went for so much. But there was clearly a huge fascination in autographed pictures.
An image of Mark Hamill, who played Skywalker, with Prowse went for £15,000. The interest may well have been the inscription (spoiler alert): “For David – You’ll Always Be ‘Dad’ Vader To Me.”
And a colour still from The Empire Strikes Back signed by Prowse and James Earl Jones – who provided Vader’s voice – sold for £4,100.
Vader was not Prowse’s only job. He was known to British children of the 1970s as the Green Cross Code Man, a road safety champion in public information films. His uniform went for £2,600.
The auctioneer, Andrew Stowe, described his excitement as he rummaged through boxes from Prowse’s home. “Every now and then I’d come across something special and it would send my brain racing,” he said.
“In one box I’d find his Empire Strikes Back script, in another an actual piece of the Millennium Falcon, then a little deeper down I’d find a letter from Peter Cushing.”
Stowe added: “There were some truly out-of-this-world results today, we had over two thousand bidders competing for lots from all around the globe.
“The love for Star Wars is still as strong as it was back in 1977 – and today’s auction was proof of that.”
The auction house and Alzheimer’s Research UK said they were delighted. Tim Parry, the director of the charity, said: “The response to the auction has been simply incredible and testament to the iconic role David brought to life in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of bids have been placed from around the world, helping to smash pre-auction estimates.
“We couldn’t be prouder to be associated with the auction and we can’t thank the Prowse family enough for deciding to donate a percentage of proceeds to help our search for breakthrough dementia treatments.”