UPDATED: While acclaimed actor James Earl Jones will alway be synonymous with injecting iconic Star Wars villain Darth Vader with his malevolent personality and voice, it will be British actor David Prowse who embodied the Dark Lord of the Sith. Literally.
Sadly Prowse has passed away at the age of 85. According to the New York Post his death was due to complications caused by coronavirus.
“It’s horrible that COVID restrictions meant we did not get to see him and say goodbye,” the late actor’s daughter Rachel, 50, told the Sun.
“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 added.
Rachel also confirmed that her dad — a 6-foot-6 former bodybuilder — had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and spent two weeks in a London hospital with COVID-19, according to the news outlet.
“He might have looked quite scary but as a person he was a sweet, kind and generous man,” his daughter said. “He really was a gentle giant. And to us he was our dad.”
His agent Thomas Bowington first reported his death on Twitter. “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.” He tweeted Sunday.
He added a second tweet, “May the force be with him, always! Though famous for playing many monsters – for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives.”
CNN reported in 2018 that Prowse was being treated for prostate cancer. However, it is not known if Prowse’s cause of death was related.
The 6′ 6″ former bodybuilder played the adult version of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Producers said Prowse was cast because of his imposing physique.
However in British entertainment circles, Prowse was more known for playing the Green Cross Code Man, becoming the face of British road safety for more than a decade and earning an MBE for his efforts.
Over the course of his 50-year career, he also appeared in the likes of Casino Royale (1967), Horror Of Frankenstein, The Saint, Space 1999, Doctor Who, and A Clockwork Orange.
Prowse had a passion for bodybuilding and was crowned British Weightlifting Champion several times in the 1960s. He became lifelong friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger in his weightlifting years, according to website IMDb.
Mark Hamill and George Lucas Post Tributes
Prowse’s Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill also paid tribute to the late actor with the following Tweet: “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”
Star Wars creator George Lucas finally weighed in on Prowse’s death. He posted on Star Wars.com: “David brought a physicality to Darth Vader that was essential for the character. 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.”
It’s all the more touching since Lucas and Prowse had a difficult time on the sets of the first three Star Wars films. Prowse was reportedly irritated that his West Country voice was not used for Vader. This led to Jones being cast to provide the voice.
The actor was also unhappy with another actor, Sebastian Shaw, was unmasked as Anakin Skywalker. This reportedly led to Prowse leaking information about the films.
Reel 360’s thoughts go out to David Prowse’s friends and family during this difficult time.
May the force be with him and them.