David Prowse, Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dies aged 85

David Prowse, Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dies aged 85


British actor David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, has died aged 85, his management company announced Sunday.

Agent Thomas Bowington 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 MBE has passed away at the age of 85.”

Prowse died after a short illness, according to his agent Thomas Bowington. news reported in 2018 that Prowse was being treated for prostate cancer.

"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," Bowington Management said on Twitter Sunday. 


Jason Joiner, an events producer who worked with Prowse, announced the death on a Facebook page dedicated to the actor, adding: “Dave was dedicated to meeting the fans for decades and lots of fans’ first ever guest they met was Dave in the early days of Comic Cons and collators’ events. Dave was larger than life and he will be so very much missed. Our love and thoughts go out to his family.”

"May the force be with him, always!" his former agent, Thomas Bowington, said in a statement to the news.
"Though famous for playing many monsters -- for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives."

Prowse wore the black suit and helmet to play Darth Vader, but it was the actor James Earl Jones who provided the character's voice. Prowse West Country English accent was thought to be unsuitable for the part.

Prowse was a former bodybuilder who had a series of roles as monsters and villains before being invited by George Lucas to audition for the roles of Vader and Chewbacca. He chose Vader and when asked why, replied: “Everyone remembers the villain.”

Born in Bristol in 1935, Prowse was, according to IMDB, raised by his mother and never knew his father. 

He developed a passion for bodybuilding and weight training in his early teens and competed in Mr Universe competitions, where he became friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. He also shredded phone books under the stage-name Jack the Ripper.

He won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship three times and was selected to represent England at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia.

Prowess first film was 1967’s Casino Royale, where he played Frankenstein’s Monster. Although the casting was based on Prowess stature, he developed a strong interest in acting and decided to pursue it further. His CV included roles in A Clockwork Orange and many Hammer Horror films, and he was the personal trainer who prepared Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in 1978.

Prowse was in the Vader suit for much of the Sith Lord’s screen time and reputedly even got to speak his lines on set, though his west country tones were dubbed over with those of American actor James Earl Jones in post-production, and many of the fight scenes featured British Olympic fencer Bob Anderson.

But it was his role as the "Green Cross Code Man" from a British road safety campaign that Prowse said he was most proud of. He was awarded an MBE -- a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire -- in 2000 for that role.

Prowse was born into a working class family and grew up in a council estate in Southmead, in southwestern England. He gained a scholarship to attend Bristol Grammar School.

He had a passion for bodybuilding and was crowned British Weightlifting Champion several times in the 1960s. He became lifelong friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger in his weightlifting years, according to website IMDb.

His broad physique and towering figure helped land him roles as monsters and villains in TV shows and films. He played the monster in "The Horror of Frankenstein" in 1970 and a bearded torturer in "Carry on Henry" in 1971. That same year he made an appearance as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick's dystopian film "A Clockwork Orange" in 1971.

To add insult to injury, when Vader’s face was finally shown to audiences as he lay dying in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, producer George Lucas chose to cast the British stage actor Sebastian Shaw instead.

Prowse and Lucas later fell out, leading to Prowse being banned from official Star Wars activities in 2010

Despite the fame he won as Vader, Prowse said he was most proud of his role as the Green Cross Man in a long-running British road safety campaign, for which he was awarded and MBE in 2000.

In a column for the Guardian in 2014, Prowse wrote: “Many people will know me for being the ultimate screen villain, Star Wars’ Darth Vader. But being a “goodie goodie” and heading up the Green Cross Code campaign, helping to save thousands of lives has always been the ultimate honour.”

He went on to play Darth Vader in all three of the original "Star Wars" films, in 1977, 1980 and 1983.

Health and fitness remained an interest for Prowse, who also worked as a personal trainer for actors playing the role of Superman, including Christopher Reeve, and wrote a book called "Fitness is Fun."
He published an autobiography, "Straight from the Force's Mouth," in 2011.