Real Life

Darth Vader’s Kiwi disciple

He may look evil, but this villain is doing it for a great cause

The force is indeed strong when it comes to one of the country’s biggest Star Wars fans, David Britten.

The Christchurch sci-fi enthusiast’s life changed forever 37 years ago when, as a 10-year-old, his mother Jean took him to watch the very first Star Wars movie. It was 1977 and screening at Christchurch’s Cinerama picture theatre.

“It was unlike anything that I had seen before,” recalls David (47). “That opening scene with the Star Destroyer still gives me chills. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my own, inventing stories. I was obsessed with the movie – I watched it about 30 times.”

David admits that his whole life has revolved around his parents and Star Wars.

“Mum’s an only child, so is Dad and so am I! I had no cousins, no big family Christmases, no close friends. I was a loner,” he says.

Despite all the heroes in Star Wars, like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, David felt the strongest connection to the famous villain Darth Vader.

“From the moment he stepped onto the screen, there was no argument that this was the bad guy. I was transfixed.”

The character represented confidence for David. “I wasn’t very confident as a kid. I didn’t have high self-esteem. Darth Vader was powerful – he answered to no one. Those were the qualities that I wanted.”

David was obsessed with the Star Wars movies growing up.

David collected as much Star Wars memorabilia as he could get his hands on and says his collection would be worth thousands of dollars today.

But he sold the lot 20 years ago. Letting go of his things, however, did not quiet the obsession.

“I always wanted one special piece – something I could keep that would sum up for me my childhood and my love for Star Wars. For me, that piece was a Darth Vader suit.”

Knowing it would make her son eternally happy, Jean didn’t have to think too carefully before forking out $2400 to buy the Darth Vader suit from the US around three years ago.

“It’s so realistic that you can’t tell the difference between my suit and the one you see on screen. Originally, I bought a mannequin, dressed it and it stood in the corner of my room.”

David’s mother Jean has always been supportive of his Star Wars passion – even buying him this Darth Vader suit.

But David began to wonder if he could do a lot more with the costume than simply display it.

“That’s when I embarked on a new career, for charity,” David explains of his decision to become a Darth Vader impersonator.

“I entertain crowds of children and their parents at malls, schools, fairs, charity and community events. I’ve performed at home visits when asked too – visiting children who are suffering from long-term or terminal illnesses.

“It is absolutely magic seeing the expression on their faces as they get up close and personal with the Dark Lord himself.”

Being Darth Vader is a job David takes very seriously.

“It’s not enough to look the part. I have to make sure I act like him and sound like him as best I can. I also need to be able to answer any questions relating to the Star Wars universe.”

David thought he could do more than just display his costume, so he embarked on a new career entertaining people for charity. “It is absolutely magic seeing the expression on their faces.

David and the rest of the world are looking forward to the release of the new Star Wars film. Although Darth Vader died in Return of the Jedi, David says his legacy will live on.

In his own life, there’s never been a Senator Padmé Amidala. David’s only been on one date, and that was in 1982 when he took a girl to see – you guessed it – a Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back.

But David enjoys being a bachelor and transforming into his alter ego every week. He wants to reassure kids of one thing.

“When I’m Darth Vader, it’s for good – not for evil.”

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