STAR WARS icon David Prowse, who made his name as Darth Vader in the original film trilogy, has died aged 85.
While American actor James Earl Jones voiced the character, it was Prowse who donned the iconic Darth Vader suit in George Lucas’s first three films.
The Bristol-born actor and bodybuilder’s sad passing was confirmed by his agent.
"It's with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world, to announce that our client DAVE PROWSE M.B.E. has passed away at the age of 85," Bowington Management tweeted.
According to his agent Thomas Bowington, Prowse died following a short illness.
A former weightlifter who represented England at the Commonwealth Games in the early 1960s, Prowse later put his towering frame to good use in a series of acting roles – including three outings as Frankenstein’s monster.
While he featured in films like the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale and the controversial Stanley Kubrick classic A Clockwork Orange, his first big break came as the fact of a road safety TV campaign in the UK.
Prowse appeared as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero promoting the safe crossing of busy roads to young kids, for two decades and later earned an MBE for his efforts.
Though he went on to enjoy success with Star Wars, he later described the role fronting the campaign as the best gig he ever had.
To most fans, however, he will always be remembered as the man whose imposing physical frame helped bring to life one of cinema’s most famous villains.
Prowse’s West Country accent may have prevented his line-readings from making the final cut of Star Wars but it was fondly remembered by his co-stars, who gave him the nickname “Darth Farmer”.
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker alongside Prowse in those three films, led the tributes.
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
"So sad to hear David Prowse has passed,” he tweeted.
“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."
Shaun of the Dead and Baby Driver director Edgar Wright also spoke of his appreciation for Prowse’s work as the Green Cross Code Man, describing the actor as a "stopped a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in the street".
He said: "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. Rest in Peace, Bristol's finest."