ON THE week the new Star Wars film hits the big screen, sci-fi fans in Portsmouth had a thrilling chance to meet the man behind the mask of Darth Vader.
David Prowse, the original on-screen villain from the first three films, was one of the guests of honour at a sci-fi convention at the Mountbatten Centre.
Former bodybuilder Prowse played the imposing Sith Lord in Episodes IV, V and VI; although the villain’s vocal performance was dubbed by James Earl Jones.
Speaking to The News, Prowse said: ‘The fans today have been fantastic. I’m honoured that I get to do conventions like this across the world every weekend.
‘And everywhere is always the same, people just love Darth Vader. He is regarded as the ultimate villain and it’s been was an honour to have played him.’
Patrick Vern, 40, dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi and had a chance to meet Prowse at the convention.
‘He has just been a real hero of mine,’ said the gas engineer from Southsea.
‘It’s the one thing I have been looking forward to for weeks.’
He added: ‘I’ve already got my tickets booked for Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Thursday.’
Chris Tarrant, of Hampshire TV, Film and Comic Con, was one of the day’s organisers.
He said: ‘To have a legend like David Prowse here has been amazing.’
Thousands of people visited the event inside the leisure centre’s sports hall.
As well as getting a chance to meet Prowse, visitors also had the opportunity to have their photo taken with a 1966 Batmobile, take part in lightsabre duels, and meet some Daleks from Doctor Who.
Fans could also speak to other sci-fi stars, including the fifth Dr Who, Peter Davison and actress Jacqueline Pearce.
Paul Cheeseman, 36, and his five-year-old son, Oliver, enjoyed the day.
Oliver, said: ‘It’s been really fun. I’ve really enjoyed it today.’
Paul, of Denville Close, Farlington, said: ‘It’s been great here today. Everyone is really expectant and excited about the new Star Wars film.’
The day was raising cash for Starlight Children’s Foundation which grants wishes for terminally-ill children.
The convention is expected to raise thousands of pounds for the cause.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released nationally on Thursday.