David Prowse – the man beneath the iconic Darth Vader mask in the Star Wars film series – has died aged 85.
His management company, Bowington Management, confirmed the news in a tweet.
They said: “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 agent Thomas Bowington, who said Prowse died after a “short illness” added a personal tribute on Facebook. He wrote: “May the force be with him, always!”
“Though famous for playing many monsters – for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives.”
“A truly and deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world”.
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. #DaveProwse @starwars #DarthVader #GreenCrossCodeMan #iconic #actor #bodybuilder #MBE pic.twitter.com/dL2RmdIqg8
— Bowington Management (@BowingtonM) November 29, 2020
Prowse was a British bodybuilder prior to Star Wars. He won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship in 1962 and represented England in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games in the same year.
He played the role of towering Julian in A Clockwork Orange (1971) before becoming well known for his role as the Gress Cross Code Man across the UK in 1975.
The superhero was invented to teach children about road safety and he received an MBE in 2000 for his efforts with the campaign.
Of course, his most iconic role came in Star Wars though his legacy in the series could have been a very different one.
Prowse was offered the choice between playing loveable hero Chewbacca or the evil Darth Vader in George Lucas’ original Star Wars film due to his imposing size. He opted for the man in black, Peter Mayhew landed the role of Han Solo’s sidekick, and the rest is history.
The Bristol-born star was also set to provide the original voice of Vader but his role was rerecorded by American star James Earl Jones due to Prowse’s less than intimidating West Country accent.
In the 2004 documentary, Empire of Dreams, Princess Leia actress Carrie Fisher remarked that they referred to Prowse as “Darth Farmer” on set.
He also appeared in a 1972 episode of Doctor Who as a Minotaur in The Time Monster.
Prowse announced his retirement from public appearances and events in October 2016, citing health reasons and the wishes of his family as the reason for stepping back.
Find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide