David Prowse, the English bodybuilder and actor who will forever be remembered as the physical presence of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died at age 85. Prowse‘s career in movies and television spanned six decades, with his final role occurring in 2016. Over the course of his quietly illustrious career, Prowse not only worked on George Lucas‘ original Star Wars trilogy, but he also appeared in Stanley Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange and the original run of beloved sci-fi television series Doctor Who.
Per an early Sunday morning report from CNN, Prowse‘s agent Thomas Bowington shared that the Star Wars actor died after a short bout with an undisclosed illness. CNN notes in their report Prowse had undergone treatment for prostate cancer in 2018, but it is unclear if that is related to his passing two years later. News of Prowse‘s death was announced via Bowington Management on Twitter: “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 M.B.E. has passed away at the age of 85.”
Prowse‘s Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill also paid tribute to the Darth Vader actor on Sunday, tweeting, “So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader. Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him.”
Prowse gained notice in his youth for his work as an athlete and bodybuilder, competing for Great Britain in the Commonwealth Games in the 1960s. Later, he would open gyms in London and even helped train Christopher Reeve for his role as Superman. Prowse clocked in a whopping 6-foot-7, so it’s no surprise his body of work as an actor saw him tackling roles where a character was required to make a physical impact. Before he suited up to play Darth Vader for the first time in 1977, Prowse played Frankenstein’s monster three (yes, three) times: In 1967’s Casino Royale, in 1970’s The Horror of Frankenstein, and in 1974’s Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell. In between his Frankenstein run, Prowse played Julian the manservant in A Clockwork Orange.
After 20 years of small roles on television and movies, Prowse‘s life changed forever when he was offered the role of Darth Vader and Chewbacca in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope; the rest is history after that. In a 2008 interview with NPR, Prowse was asked why he chose to play Darth Vader when offered the two roles. Prowse answered, “Well, if you think back on all the movies that you’ve ever seen where there are goodies and baddies … you always remember the baddie.”
Truer words have never been spoken.