David Prowse Dies Aged 85
David Prowse, the British actor best known for playing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has passed away at the age of 85 after a short illness, his agent has confirmed. While James Earl Jones famously provided Vader’s voice, the character was embodied on set by Prowse – whose towering physical presence contributed immensely to one of the most iconic and formidable cinematic villains of all time.
Prowse was a weightlifter and bodybuilder prior to his screen career, which began with a cameo appearance in 1967’s spoof James Bond movie Casino Royale. In the 1970s, he became known to British kids as the Green Cross Code Man – a superhero-type character who imparted the rules of the road to children on TV. In 1971 he played bodyguard Julian in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange – and it was his work in that film which caught the attention of George Lucas when it came time to cast Star Wars. Lucas offered him the choice to play either Chewbacca or Vader, and Prowse chose the latter – because “you always remember the bad guy”, he told the BBC.
While his vocals were later replaced by Jones, Prowse did deliver Vader’s lines on set in his West Country accent, captured in now-legendary behind-the-scenes videos.
Prowse’s Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill payed tribute to the original Vader on Twitter, writing: “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”
C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels also commented on Prowse’s passing, writing: “More sad news. Dave has gone. I don’t think 3PO ever faced Vader’s mighty presence on set, other than as a bag of bits on Chewie’s shoulders in the carbon freezer. But Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in '77 and has done so ever since. And will continue to do so.”
Darth Vader came in at #1 in Empire’s 2018 reader-voted poll of the Greatest Movie Villains – and Prowse’s domineering presence was an indelible part of what made the galaxy’s greatest bad guy so memorable. Our thoughts are with his friends, family, and loved ones.