British actor David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, has died at age 85, his acting company announced Sunday.
Prowse passed away after a brief illness, according to his agent Thomas Bowington. CNN reported in 2018 that Prowse was being treated for prostate cancer.
“It is with great regret and heartbreaking sadness for us and millions of fans around the world to announce that our client DAVE PROWSE MBE passed away at the age of 85,” Bowington Management said on Twitter Sunday.
Born in Bristol in 1935, Prowse had been a champion weightlifter and had previously worked on several series B horror productions of the Hammer , always hidden under a mask as a monster. He was also widely known in the UK for a road awareness campaign that taught children to cross the street and for which in 2000 he received the Order of the British Empire.
“Although he was famous for playing many monsters, for me and for all of us who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives,” Bovington said in another statement to the BBC . The agent called Prowse’s passing “a profound and truly painful loss for millions of fans around the world.”
His more than 2 meters tall and 118 kilos of weight marked his career from the beginning, in which his participation as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange stands out , whom he remembered fondly, and he played Frankenstein several times under immense capes makeup before he was cast in the role of the villain of the Galaxy devised by George Lucas.
His imposing physique was key to the American Graffiti director casting him as Darth Vader in Star Wars in 1977 and in the other two films in the original trilogy. “Lucas came to me and said ‘you have the option of doing two characters in the movie. There is a character named Chewbacca, who is a giant teddy bear, or the villain from the movie. ‘ And I thought, it’s a very easy choice. Thank you very much, I’ll take the villain ”, he replied. His silhouette, his breathing, the way he moved … all this raised him to the category of icon recognized worldwide, although viewers never saw his face on the screen.
However, in the final cut, Lucas decided to do without his voice. As Prowse later stated, he did not know that his voice had been replaced by that of actor James Earl Jones until the film’s premiere. In Spain, it was Constantino Romero who lent him his unmistakable voice. “I think he did a wonderful job, but I still think I could have done just as well if I had been given the opportunity,” Prowse later declared.
Following his participation in Return of the Jedi, Prowse was banned from attending Star Wars conventions after he was wrongly accused of leaking to the press that his character ended up dying.
The documentary I am your father, directed by the Mallorcan Toni Bestard and Marcos Cabotá in 2015, was in charge of claiming his figure and bringing to light the unknown story of the Bristol actor and the ostracism to which he was sentenced.
As revealed years later, Lucas was always clear that Darth Vader’s voice should be deep and dark. It is clear that he never intended to use that of Prowse, who was nicknamed ‘Darth Farmer’ (the dark farmer) on the set because of his western accent.
Before beginning his acting career, Prowse served as the personal trainer of the late Christopher Reeve to make his role as ‘Superman’ credible. He also appeared regularly in several television series considered “cult”, such as ‘The Saint Space’ and ‘Doctor Who’, in which he played the minotaur, in 1972. After his role in ‘Star Wars’, the actor remained apart from the movies.
Prowse also participated in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and played ‘Frankenstein’
Mark Hamill, the actor who gave life to Luke Skywalker, his son in galactic fiction , has remembered Prowse in a parting word on his Twitter account: “It is very sad to know that David Prowse has passed away. He was a kind man and much more than Darth Vader. Actor, husband, father, member of the Order of the British Empire, three-time British Champion of Weightlifting and safety icon the man of the Green Cross Code. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #D.E.P”.
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. #RIP pic.twitter.com/VbDrGu6iBz
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) November 29, 2020
And Anthony Daniels, who played C3PO, has also honored him with an emotional message on the same social network: “More sad news. Dave is gone. I don’t think C3PO ever faced the powerful presence of Vader on set, save as a bag of ‘bits’ on Chewie’s shoulders in the charcoal freezer. But the iconic figure of Dave dominated the finished movie in ’77 and has done so ever since. And it will continue to do so ”.
More sad news. Dave has gone. 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. But Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in '77 and has done so ever since. And will continue to do so.
— Anthony Daniels (@ADaniels3PO) November 29, 2020