David Prowse, The Original Darth Vader, Dies at 85
There has been a great disturbance in the Force. David Prowse, the actor who portrayed Darth Vader onscreen in the original Star Wars trilogy has died following a short illness. His managers announced the news on Sunday with this statement: "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.”
Prowse a British bodybuilding champion for years before he moved into acting. His muscles served him well, getting him cast in a series of roles as heavies and monsters. One of those parts included Julian in A Clockwork Orange, which caught the eye of Star Wars writer and director George Lucas.
“George said he could offer me two parts – the first was a hairy gorilla called Chewbacca,” Prowse told This Is Bristol in 2009. "I said I wasn't too interested because I didn't want to wear a mask – I wanted to play a part where people could see my face.He said the other part was the central villain and I told him, 'That will do'. But I never realized the villain would also be wearing a mask!"”
The villain was, of course, Darth Vader, who Prowse portrayed on set in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Prowse’s physicality was essential the role, as he gave the character a massive, intimidating presence. While James Earl Jones recorded Darth Vader’s famous voice, Prowse did read all of the character’s lines on set — you can hear a little of his performance in the clip below.
In England, Prowse was also known as the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero created for a popular series of PSAs promoting traffic safety. The role garnered him a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire award in the year 2000. In 2014, Prowse called the Green Cross Code Man gig “the best job I’ve ever had, including my Star Wars role, and by far my proudest achievement.”
While Prowse was understandably proud of those commercials, it’s Vader that will remain his true legacy. Every actor who has played the part since, every animator and comic artist who’s drawn a cartoon Vader, every cosplayer who’s gotten into Vader’s costume — they all owe David Prowse for that iconic original performance.
Gallery — Star Wars Easter Eggs in Non-Star Wars Movies and Shows: