If anyone felt a disturbance in the force this week, it may have coincided with the arrival of Spencer Wilding in the Cayman Islands.
The 6-foot, 7-inch-tall actor, the man behind the mask in the latest Star Wars movie, is more familiar to audiences around the world as Darth Vader.
To Max Phillips, 4, and his sister Ava, 10, he is simply Uncle Spencer.
The former kickboxer turned actor paid a visit to his sister Samantha Phillips and her family at their home in South Sound this week.
During a brief trip to the island, Mr. Wilding, who played the super villain in “Rouge One,” which came out last year, even dropped in on the children’s schools, delighting their classmates with his stories from the set of the famous movie.
Even without the suit, the 44-year-old, originally from Wales, has a formidable presence.
Speaking to the Cayman Compass on Monday, he said it was a “dream come true” to play cinema’s most feared villain.
“I absolutely loved playing Darth Vader. The moment I put on the suit, his presence just took over.”
He remembers auditioning for the role at London’s Pinewood studios and seeing the looks of fear and respect from the casting directors when he donned the suit.
“You can’t just put a tall guy in the suit and make him walk around. It is about a presence and a feeling. I believe the presence came to me. I felt like I was Darth Vader. The character took over me.”
Mr. Wilding has played some of the most recognizable characters on screen. Yet, if you saw him on the beach, you might not know his face.
“I have done a lot of different characters behind a mask,” he says.
He specializes in creature characters and played a White Walker in “Game of Thrones,” Prometheus in “Victor Frankenstein,” and a Shadow Warrior in “Batman Begins.”
He has also featured in “Dr. Who” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and was Benicio del Toro’s Wolfman body double in the movie of the same name.
Mr. Wilding says his initial forays into acting were hampered by his severe dyslexia. He was invited to audition for British crime thriller “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” but struggled to read the script.
It was only after achieving fame as a kickboxing champion that he found a new route into acting, eventually overcoming dyslexia through reading more and more scripts. After landing the biggest role of his career in “Rogue One,” he was bound to secrecy for more than a year until the film came out.
His sister, Sam Phillips, says she and the family, including husband Mark, a QC working on the long-running Saudi legal case currently under way in Cayman, were “beyond excited” when they watched the movie premiere in Grand Cayman.
But she admits she may be one of the few people on the planet who is not a fan of the franchise. “I have never been into Star Wars. I didn’t see the original ones. I prefer a good period drama.”
Despite that, she says is a convert to the series thanks to her “little brother.”
“He’s using it to help out a lot of charities back home and to help dyslexic children. I am so proud of him,” she said.