LONDON — David Prowse, the British bodybuilder and actor, albeit the body, not the voice, of Darth Vader, has died. He was 85.
Prowse died Saturday after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said.
“May the force be with him, always!” Bowington told the BBC. “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 was a three-time weightlifting champion and represented England in weightlifting at the 1962 Commonwealth Games. He later started acting being cast in roles like Frankenstein for his imposing physique.
George Lucas saw Prowse in “A Clockwork Orange” and asked him to audition for the part of Vader and Chewbacca for “Star Wars.” While Prowse was Vader’s body, James Earl Jones was the voice of the Sith Lord.
Prowse relished the role and later told the BBC he chose the villainous Vader because “you always remember the bad guys.”
However, he did express some regret that because of the masked role he could walk around in complete anonymity.
“All actors crave recognition and I’d like to have some like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo,” he told The Associated Press in 1980. “Fortune tends to follow fame.”
He was a regular at “Star Wars” events until a falling out with Lucas in 2010 and was banned from the conventions.
Prowse also was the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero in a series of road safety ads on British TV in the 1970s and 80s. He also was a personal trainer to other actors, including Christopher Reeve when he was preparing for the role of “Superman.”
British actor Anthony Daniels, who portrayed the android C-3P0 in 11 of the 12 “Star Wars” movies, lauded Prowse on social media.
“I don’t think 3PO ever faced Vader’s mighty presence on set, other than as a bag of bits on Chewie’s shoulders in the carbon freezer,” Daniels said on social media. “But Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since. And will continue to do so.”
Actor Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, shared his condolences on social media.
“He was a kind man and much more than Darth Vader,” Hamill said. “He loved his fans as much as they loved him.”
Prowse is survived by his wife and three children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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