David Prowse, the actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films, has died, the Associated Press reported. He was 85.
George Lucas asked Prowse to audition for Star Wars after seeing the 6-foot-6 actor in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange. Prowse had his choice of playing Chewbacca or Vader, and opted for the latter because, as he told the BBC, “you always remember the bad guy.” Plus, he added, he didn’t fancy wearing Chewbacca’s fur suit.
Prowse played Luke Skywalker’s erstwhile father in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, but famously, his voice didn’t make it into the films. He said all Vader’s lines, but the voice of James Earl Jones was later dubbed in.
Before he became an actor, Prowse was a champion bodybuilder in the UK in the 1960s. His biggest role prior to Darth Vader was as the Green Cross Code Man, a hero who promoted street-crossing safety to children in a government public service campaign. Prowse called the Code Man gig “the best job I’ve ever had, including my Star Wars role, and by far my proudest achievement.”
Mark Hamill, Prowse’s on-screen Star Wars son, tweeted his condolences Sunday. “He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader,” who “loved his fans as much as they loved him.”
Prowse had retired in 2016 due to health problems, according to the New York Times. He is survived by his wife Norma Scammell, and three children.