David Prowse, the British actor best known for playing the original Darth Vader in the popular Star Wars franchise, died at a hospital in London early on Saturday, after battling Covid-19 for two weeks, his daughter Rachel told The Sun. He was 85.
Rachel also said that Prowse had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “It’s horrible that Covid restrictions meant we did not get to see him and say goodbye. But when we went to collect his stuff from the hospital the nurse said what a cool guy he was. He was such a larger-than-life character. He would have loved to see himself trending on Twitter,” she said.
Prowse’s death was first announced on Sunday by Jason Joiner, an events manager who worked with Prowse on a Facebook fan page dedicated to the actor. The announcement read, “We are very sad to have to inform you that Dave Prowse has passed away aged 85. Dave has been suffering for some time and has not been attending events for several years.”
Thomas Bowington, Prowse’s agent, told The Guardian, “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 MBE has passed away at the age of 85.”
Prowse was born in Bristol, England, in 1935. He was a three-time weightlifting champion and even represented the country in weightlifting at the 1962 Commonwealth Games. His physical build allowed him to break into movies and play the roles of many monsters.
Prowse is best known as the iconic character Darth Vader, an imposing antagonist in the popular science-fiction series, Star Wars. However, due to his West Country English accent, Vader’s dialogues had to be voiced by James Earl Jones.
George Lucas, the director of Star Wars, had invited Prowse to audition for the roles of both Chewbacca and Darth Vader, after seeing him play a minor role (Julian) in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. However, Prowse chose Vader. In a 2008 interview with NPR, Prowse said he picked Vader because, “You always remember the baddie.”
Prowse won an MBE, the third highest ranking Order of the British Empire award, for playing the Green Cross Man, a superhero created for promoting road safety in the UK. In fact, Prowse may be best known for Vader but he was most proud of his role as the Green Cross Man.
In 2014, Prowse wrote in a Guardian column, “Many people will know me for being the ultimate screen villain, Star Wars’ Darth Vader. But being a “goodie goodie” and heading up the Green Cross Code campaign, helping to save thousands of lives has always been the ultimate honour.”
In his tribute to Prowse, Star Wars creator George Lucas said that he brought a physicality that was essential for Vader’s character. Lucas told The Hollywood Reporter, “He made Vader leap off the page and on to the big screen, with an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader’s presence. David was up for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable, tragic figure. May he rest in peace.”
Lucasfilm was saddened to learn of the passing of David Prowse, who provided the commanding presence and imposing physical performance of Darth Vader for the Original Trilogy. He will be long remembered…https://t.co/U8Yua0mmoK pic.twitter.com/m2WGGlE3r1
— Star Wars (@starwars) November 29, 2020
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of the original Star Wars series, and also the son of Darth Vader aka Anakin Skywalker, also paid tribute to Prowse. Saying he was saddened to hear the news, Hamill wrote:
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
Co-star Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO, a protocol droid bought by Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, wrote:
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
The family of late actor Peter Mayhew, who played the role of Chewbacca, the 200-year-old Wookie (a fictional alien race), in Star Wars, posted a photo of Prowse along with Mayhew and late actor Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 (an astromech droid), on social media :
— Peter Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) November 29, 2020
John Barrowman, Prowse’s co-star in Doctor Who, wrote:
#DaveProwse has passed away. #fanfamily We knew him best as #DarthVader Dave got me into shape/trained me for my Role in Matador. He was a genuine, kind, loving man, loved life, family, fitness and his fans. Dave was a huge part of our #confamily his smile will be missed. Jb pic.twitter.com/t91c5JCcTS
— John Barrowman MBE (@JohnBarrowman) November 29, 2020
Feature Image photo courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:David_Prowse_at_Mountain-Con_III_in_2007.png
Darth Vader photo courtesy: https://www.starwars.com/databank/darth-vader-biography-gallery