Actor David Prowse, the man who donned the iconic Darth Vader suit in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died aged 85.
“It’s with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world, to announce that our client DAVE PROWSE M.B.E. has passed away at the age of 85,” Bowington Management tweeted.
He died after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said in a Facebook post.
Tributes poured in, with Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, tweeting: “So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader. Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP.”
The British weightlifter and bodybuilder became a film icon for his physical portrayal of the lead villain in the science fiction franchise, with the character’s voice being performed by American actor James Earl Jones.
The Bristolian originally recorded Vader’s voice, but was replaced by Jones because of Prowse’s West Country accent.
“We called him Darth Farmer,” Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the films, said during an interview on The Jonathan Ross Show in March 2016.
Prowse represented England in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games in the early 1960s before embarking on an acting career.
Prior to landing the famous Star Wars role, Prowse was a familiar face on UK television as the first Green Cross Code Man, a character used in road safety advertising aimed at children.
It was a super hero-like character in a campaign which ran for two decades, and for which Prowse received an MBE in 2000.
He once described it as the best gig he ever had.
Prowse made his film debut in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale.
His minor part in the film landed him several other screen roles, including in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Prowse also portrayed the Frankenstein monster in three films due to his 6ft 6in physique, before he was cast as Vader in Star Wars in 1977, which became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon.
“Lucas said to me, ‘You’ve got a choice of two characters in the movie’,” Prowse recalled in a 2016 interview at Awesome Con, an annual pop culture convention in Washington DC.
“So I said, ‘What are they?’ He said, ‘There’s a character called Chewbacca, which is like a huge teddy bear, or alternatively, there’s the main villain in the piece.’
“I said to him, ‘Well, there’s no choice, is there? Thank you very much, I’ll have the villain’s piece’.”
Chewbacca went on to be played by the even taller Peter Mayhew, who stood at 7ft 3ins. He passed away last year.
Fellow Star Wars stars are among those who have paid tribute to Prowse.
The Mandalorian actor Carl Weathers tweeted: “RIP David Prowse. That stature contributed so much to Darth Vader’s legend. #BePeace.”
Daniel Logan, who played Boba Fett, the Mandalorian warrior and bounty hunter in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, also paid tribute to Prowse on social media, posting a picture of himself with the English actor.
He tweeted: “Sad to hear of the passing of a #StarWars family member. RIP Dave Prowse. Darth Vader wouldn’t be the same without you in the costume. We had many fun times & laughs at cons together over the years. Glad to have been able to call you a friend. Rest now and be one with the Force!”
As a kid Dave Prowse couldn’t be more famous to me; stalking along corridors as evil incarnate in the part of Darth Vader & stopping a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in street as the Green Cross Code man. Rest in Peace, Bristol’s finest. https://t.co/VYdxM37JWb
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) November 29, 2020
Film director Edgar Wright described Prowse as the man who “stopped a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in the street”.
He said: “As a kid Dave Prowse couldn’t be more famous to me; stalking along corridors as evil incarnate in the part of Darth Vader & stopping a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in street as the Green Cross Code man. Rest in Peace, Bristol’s finest.”