Dave Prowse, the Bristol actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has passed away at the age of 85.
The weightlifter turned actor, who also earned an MBE for playing the Green Cross Code Man to promote road safety, died after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said in a Facebook post.
Prowse won the part that Vader played due to his impressive 6ft 6in physique, but with his West Country accent not considered quite appropriate, the role was instead voiced by James Earl Jones.
“May the force always be with him!” Mr Bowington said in a statement to the BBC.
“Although famous for playing a lot of monsters – for myself, and for everyone who knew and worked with Dave, he was a hero in our lives.”
Mr Bowington called the actor’s death, after a brief illness, “a real and deep heartbreaking loss to us and millions of fans around the world.”
Prowse represented England in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games in the early 1960s before embarking on an acting career.
He was reportedly noticed by Star Wars director George Lucas when he played a bodyguard in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange and was invited to audition for the roles of Darth Vader and Chewbacca.
He once told the BBC that he chose Vader over his furry co-star because “you always remember the bad guys”.
Actor Daniel Logan, who played Boba Fett in Star Wars: Episode II Attack Of The Clones, posted a photo to Twitter featuring Dave Prowse, writing, “Sad to hear of the death of a #StarWars relative. RIP Dave Prowse.
“Darth Vader wouldn’t be the same without you in the costume. We had a lot of fun times and laughed at cons together over the years.
“I’m glad I could call you a friend. Rest now and be one with the Force! “
Film director Edgar Wright paid tribute to Prowse, describing him as the man who “kept an entire generation of children from being mowed in the street.”
He said, “As a kid Dave Prowse couldn’t be more famous for me; stealing through corridors as the incarnating evil in the role of Darth Vader and preventing an entire generation of kids from being mowed down on the streets as the Green Cross Code man. Rest in peace, Bristol’s best. “
American actor Carl Weathers, who played Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies and starred in the Disney Plus Star Wars series The Mandalorian, paid tribute on Twitter: “RIP David Prowse. That status contributed so much to the legend of Darth Vader. #BePeace. “
British actor Robin Askwith remembers first meeting Dave Prowse in 1972.
‘Such sad news that dear Dave Prowse has passed away …’ he wrote on Twitter.
“I first met him at his gym in 1972, West End gym and then he seemed to show up in everything I did, once he appeared in the full Darth Vader kit to see me rolling around naked with Pamela Stephenson … .RIP Dave … “
The Peter Mayhew Foundation Twitter account, set up in memory of the actor who played Chewbacca, shared a photo of Prowse with Mayhew and their co-star Kenny Baker.
RIP Dave Prowse. I hope you share a pint and a story with the guys up there. #DarthVader #DaveProwse #RIPDaveProwse #StarWars. “
Mayhew passed away in 2019 and Baker, who played R2-D2, passed away in 2016.
Prowse’s Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill called him “way more than Darth Vader.”
He tweeted, “So sad to hear that David Prowse has passed away. He was a nice man and much more than Darth Vader.
Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-Three-time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man.
“He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #REST IN PEACE.”