British actor Dave Prowse, known for his role as Star Wars villain Darth Vader, has passed away at the age of 85, the BBC reports on Sunday.
Born in Bristol, England, on 1 July 1935, brought up on a council estate and gaining a scholarship to Bristol Grammar School. Prowse left Bristol in 1963, at the age of 28, to work for a weightlifting company in London.
“My only ambition was to become Mr Universe and my life was geared to that,” Prowse said according to This is Bristol. “Every job I took was aimed to help me achieve my ambition and if it stood in the way, then I would leave and find something else.” Prowse’s early jobs included working as a bouncer (at a dance hall where he met his wife) and as a lifeguard.
Prowse debuted on film in 1967 in Casino Royale, a spy parody film loosely based on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, as Frankenstein’s monster, a role he played twice more – in ‘Horror of Frankenstein’ (1970) and ‘Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell’ (1974).
Prowse also had a role in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971), which prompted Star Wars director George Lucas to invite Prowse to audition for Darth Vader and Chewbacca, choosing the former because “you always remember the bad guys,” as he told the BBC.
Reactions to Prowse’s passing poured in, including from Mark Hamill, who plays his on-screen son Luke Skywalker. “So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader,” Hamill tweeted.
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. #RIPpic.twitter.com/VbDrGu6iBz
Anthony Daniels, known for playing C-3PO in the series of space films, also reached out Twitter, saying that “Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since. And 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.
Prowse is not the first of the original Star Wars cast to pass away. Peter Cushing, who played Grand Moff Tarkin, died in 1994, original Obi-Wan Kenobi actor Sir Alec Guinness died in 2000, and both Kenny Baker (known for playing R2D2) and Carrie Fisher – who starred as Luke’s twin sister, Princess Leia – passed away in 2016.
While Prowse may be most famous for his role as Darth Vader, it was another role he was most proud of.
“The 14 years I spent as the face of the government’s road safety campaign – as the Green Cross Man – is the best job I’ve ever had, including my Star Wars role, and by far my proudest achievement,” Prowse wrote in an opinion piece in The Guardian titled “Being the Green Cross Man beats being Darth Vader any day.”