“It’s with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world, to announce that Dave Prowse has passed away at the age of 85,” Bowington Management said in a statement.
“May the force be with him, always,” Prowse’s agent, Thomas Bowington, told the BBC.
The imposing, 6-foot-6 champion weightlifter and bodybuilder gave a menacing physicality to the sci-fi icon to thrill millions of “Star Wars” fans around the world. He was a powerful, intimidating villain and surprise father of hero Luke Skywalker in director George Lucas’ futuristic, trailblazing saga.
Prowse played the role, but his voice was dubbed by James Earl Jones because Prowse’s British West Country accent didn’t fit a Sith Lord.
Prowse auditioned for both Vader and the lovable Chewbacca, and he said Lucas gave him a choice of roles. “Thank you very much, I’ll have the villain’s piece,” he said in a 2016 interview. He told the BBC: “You always remember the bad guys.”
Years earlier he called it a “great honor” to have played the “ultimate screen villain of all time.”
But the role was far more demanding than he realized, he revealed in his 2005 book “Straight From the Force’s Mouth.” The helmet of his unforgettable, top-heavy costume, made of fiberglass and leather, weighed 40 pounds. It was extremely hot and made it difficult for Prowse to see and be heard, and negotiate the set, The Hollywood Reporter noted.
Prowse hoped to finally see daylight in his role in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi” when Vader finally removes his helmet. Prowse, however, was replaced by British actor Sebastian Shaw for the scene.
But Mark Hamill dispelled any confusion about the real identity of his “dad” Darth Vader in a tweet two years ago:
Hamill said early Sunday that he was “so sad” to learn of Prowse’s passing. He “was a kind man & so much more than Darth Vader,” who “loved his fans as much as they loved him,” Hamill wrote in a tweet.
Prowse was a big draw at “Star Wars” fan conventions, but was banned from official events after a falling out with Lucas, who falsely accused him of leaking word of Darth Vader’s death to the media, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Prowse made his film debut in 1967 as Frankenstein’s monster in the James Bond spoof “Casino Royale.” His career — which also included roles in “Doctor Who,” “The Saint” and “Clockwork Orange” (where he was spotted by Lucas) — spanned 50 years.
Prowse was particularly fond of his popular U.K. role as the Green Cross Code Man. His superhero-like character appeared in public-service ads to teach children how to safely cross streets. Because of that role, which he played form 1967 through 1990, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
Fans were heartbroken about Prowse’s death.
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