Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dies at the age of 85

29 November 2020, 07:44 | Updated: 29 November 2020, 08:50

Dave Prowse, who was the actor behind Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died at the age of 85
Dave Prowse, who was the actor behind Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died at the age of 85. Picture: Getty

By Kate Buck

Dave Prowse, the actor who played the iconic role of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died at the age of 85 following a short illness.

The former Bristolian body builder was picked to play the movie villain thanks to his imposing 6ft 6 stature, but his West Country accent was not deemed suitable enough to be the voice of the character.

Instead James Earl Jones was picked as the voice - something which came as a surprise to the body-builder turned actor.

His agent Thomas Bowington: "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."

He added that his death was "a truly and deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world".

Prowse said his favourite job was as the Green Cross Man in the 1970s and 80s
Prowse said his favourite job was as the Green Cross Man in the 1970s and 80s. Picture: PA

Before becoming an actor Prowse represented England at the Commonwealth Games as a weightlifter in the early 1960s.

He was also Superman actor Christopher Reeves' personal trainer, and was reportedly friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno during their body building days before all three of them went into film.

He was invited to audition for the roles of Vader and Chewbacca after Star Wars director George Lucas spotted him playing a guard in 1971 film Clockwork Orange.

Although Darth Vader is his most famous role, Prowse maintained that his favourite job was as the "Green Cross Man", which he began working as in 1975.

Dressed in his distinctive white and green costume, Prowse was the face of British road safety for over 10 years, and said it was the "best job I ever had".

Film director Edgar Wright described him as the man who "stopped a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in the street".

He was awarded and MBE for his part as the Green Cross Man
He was awarded and MBE for his part as the Green Cross Man. Picture: PA

"As a kid Dave Prowse couldn't be more famous to me; stalking along corridors as evil incarnate in the part of Darth Vader & stopping a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in street as the Green Cross Code man. Rest in Peace, Bristol's finest."

The Twitter account of the Peter Mayhew Foundation, set up in memory of the actor who played Chewbacca, shared a picture of Prowse with Mayhew and their co-star Kenny Baker.

"RIP Dave Prowse. I hope you're up there sharing a pint and a story with the boys. #DarthVader #DaveProwse #RIPDaveProwse #StarWars."

Mayhew died in 2019 and Baker, who played R2-D2, died in 2016.