Star Wars’ Darth Vader Actor David Prowse Dies At Age 85

Darth Vader

David “Dave” Prowse, the actor under Darth Vader’s helmet and armor in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died after a short illness at the age of 85. His agent announced his death early on Sunday morning, saying:

 “It’s with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and millions of fans around the world, to announce that our client Dave Prowse MBE has passed away at the age of 85.”

The former bodybuilder made his leap into a galaxy far, far away after George Lucas spotted him in a bit part in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. According to Prowse, he was offered a choice between playing Chewbacca or Vader and chose the latter on the basis that “everyone remembers the villain.”

Of course, fans will know that James Earl Jones provides the booming voice of Vader. George Lucas apparently planned this all along, too, as Prowse’s British west country tones don’t exactly scream bone-chilling villainy. Still, he was speaking Vader’s lines on set during the shoot and (hilarious) footage of him voicing the role can be seen on YouTube.

But it wasn’t all good times on the Star Wars set, as Prowse had a difficult relationship with Lucas from day one. In interviews, he claimed that he wasn’t told that they weren’t going to use his voice and also felt betrayed when the filmmaker didn’t tell him that Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father (he only realized this at The Empire Strikes Back premiere). Furthermore, in Return of the Jedi, he assumed that his face would be visible when Vader’s helmet was removed in the finale, only for Lucas to use Sebastian Shaw instead.

“The thing that hurt was it was all done without telling me,” said Prowse. “It was all done in a very underhand way. I didn’t like it one little bit.”

Beyond Star Wars, Prowse was also friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno from their bodybuilding days, was Christopher Reeves’ personal trainer for Superman and is known to a generation in the United Kingdom for his role as road safety PSA superhero The Green Cross Man, for which he was awarded an honor by the Queen in 2000. That last one was the job he was most proud of, too, with the actor saying:

“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.”

RIP Dave Prowse 1935-2020.