David Prowse, British Weightlifter Who Played Darth Vader, Passes Away at 85

Vader
Colin Davey/Evening Standard/Getty Images

LONDON (AP) – Dave Prowse, the British weightlifter-turned-actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died. He was 85.

Prowse died Saturday after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said Sunday.

Born in Bristol, southwest England, in 1935, Prowse represented England in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games in the 1950s before breaking into movies with roles that emphasized his commanding size, including Frankenstein’s monster in a pair of horror films.

Director George Lucas saw Prowse in a small part in “A Clockwork Orange” and asked the 6-foot-6-inch (2-metre) actor to audition for the villainous Vader or the Wookie Chewbacca in Star Wars.

Prowse later told the BBC he chose Darth Vader because “you always remember the bad guys.”

Physically, Prowse was perfect for the part. His lilting English West Country accent was considered less ideal, and his lines were dubbed by James Earl Jones.

Prowse was also known to a generation of British children as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero in a series of road safety advertisements

Ant-Man director Edgar Wright paid tribute to Prowse on Twitter.

“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,” he wrote. “Rest in Peace, Bristol’s finest.”

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