David Prowse, the British bodybuilder-turned-actor best known for embodying Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, has died at age 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,” his management team at Bowington Management announced on Sunday. Prowse had undergone treatment for prostate cancer two years ago, according to CNN.
Prowse was best known for his role in the “Star Wars” series, in which he embodied the villainous Sith lord Darth Vader — while American actor James Earl Jones’ voice was dubbed in to replace Prowse’s thick West Country accent.
The 6-foot-6-inch actor first rose to fame as a bodybuilder who competed for Great Britain in the Commonwealth Games in the early 1960s.
He landed his first film role, as Frankenstein’s monster, in the 1967 James Bond spoof “Casino Royale.” He played the character again in two early 1970s Hammer films, “Horror of Frankenstein” and “Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.”
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, he became a regular on British TV in cult series like “The Saint” and “Dr. Who.” He also gained widespread fame and recognition for playing the superheroic Green Cross Man in a series of British commercials to promote pedestrian road safety. The campaign, launched in 1970, earned Prowse his chivalric MBE honor as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2000.
“Star Wars” director George Lucas first noticed Prowse playing a bodyguard in 1971’s “A Clockwork Orange.” The actor auditioned for both Darth Vader and the oversize Wookiee Chewbacca in the original 1977 sci-fi “Star Wars” film — and landed the role of Darth Vader that he would reprise in both 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back” and 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the franchise, paid tribute to the actor early Sunday. “He was a kind man and much more than Darth Vader,” Hamill tweeted. “He loved his fans as much as they loved him.”