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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, features Rhyl kickboxing champion as Darth Vader

by Khyle Deen. Published Tue 13 Dec 2016 11:09, last updated: 13/12/16

Rhyl kickboxer-turned-actor Spencer Wilding has been revealed as the new actor donning Darth Vader's infamous suit in the new Star Wars movie out this Thursday.

The film's British director Gareth Edwards confirmed that the 6ft7 former Welsh kickboxing champion is to play the arch-villain when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, hits cinemas screens this week.

Wilding, whose acting credits include Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, and Frankenstein's monster in several Harry Potter films, had been hotly tipped to portray Darth Vader.

Gareth, 41, said of 43-year-old Wilding: “The day we shot the Darth Vader stuff was pretty surreal.

“The film set’s really noisy, but then it would suddenly get quiet and Darth Vader had just walked onto the set. Suddenly you’d see all these 40 year old men gawping at him like four year olds.

“It was really hard for me to direct the actors in the Darth Vader costume too - it just seemed really wrong bossing him about because he’s so intimidating. It’s just too scary - you can’t tell him off or he might kill you.”

David Prowse played Darth Vader in the original trilogy, he stands at one inch shorter than Wilding.

Wilding is just one of many British connections to the highly anticipated Star Wars movie, it's leading actress is British, as are several other cast members, the movie was also shot at Pinewood Studios just outside of London.

Disney even hired an army of British soldiers to play Rebel Alliance fighters to make the battle scenes among the most realistic ever caught on camera.

Despite other star wars movies shooting in England, with homegrown actors including Christoper Lee and Ewan McGregor, director Gareth said: “This is the first Star Wars movie to be shot in Britain as well as having a British star and a British director."

“And I think that’s because as a country we punch above our weight in terms of the great artists and work we can produce.

“Having said that, I still can’t believe that I am directing a Star Wars movie. I’ve been a lifelong fan and, when I was five years old, I used to go to bed in Star Wars pyjamas between Star Wars sheets. Now, every day I wake up and check I’m not in those same pyjamas and sheets and it wasn’t just a five-year-old boy’s amazing dream.”

Gareth made his name directing 2010 sci-fi film Monsters, and had just completed a modern remake of Godzilla when he got the call to take on Rogue One in 2013.

Though Gareth has worked in movies for the past decade, his love of Star Wars began as a child, growing up in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, in 1977, is his favourite movie of all time. Though he never thought he'd one day play such a huge role in expanding the franchise.

“It was always set in a galaxy far away, and I wanted to join the rebel alliance,” he says. “I remember my parents came back from the shop one day with a Betamax player. I got so excited because my neighbour had a copy of Star Wars on Betamax tape. So I begged them to lend it to me - I’d watch it every day before I went to school - and though I promised I’d give it back to them, I must admit I never did.

“Later I discovered it was all a lie called film making and I thought: ‘Oh well, the next best option is be a film maker then.’ Then I found out lots of the original Star wars movies were actually filmed in England then thought maybe I could do this?”

Gareth admitted it was “probably” no coincidence that an At-at (All Terrain Armored Transport) makes a return in Rogue One too, because it was the Star wars model he most wanted as a kid - and he finally had that dream realised in Nuneaton too.

“My mum couldn’t afford an At-at so I asked for money off my nan and all my other family - I remember it was about 30 quid. I remember buying it and coming out of Debenhams in Nuneaton and thinking: “no matter what happens in life now, I’m always going to have an At-at.”


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