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RIP David Prowse, the Man Behind Darth Vader

The actor who embodied the iconic villain has passed away at 85.

david prowse

David Prowse, the actor who played the physical role of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has passed away at 85. The British bodybuilder and character actor performed the role of cinema’s most iconic villain, while James Earl Jones provided the voice. At a towering 6′ foot 6″ inches tall, the former British heavyweight weightlifting champion cut an imposing figure, making him a natural for the role. Prowse played Vader in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983).

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Prowse made a name for himself as the first Green Cross Code man, a public mascot/superhero designed to raise awareness about pedestrian road safety. His work with the campaign earned him an The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) honor in 2000. Prowse also worked as a fitness consultant to Harrods, and trained actors like Christopher Reeve for Superman and Cary Elwes for The Princess Bride. George Lucas first took notice of Prowse in his role as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Prowse said he was offered the roles of Chewbacca or Darth Vader, but quickly chose the latter. In an interview with the BBC, Prowse recalled, “I said, ‘Well, don’t say any more, George, I’ll have the villain’s part,’” adding “You always remember the bad guy.” Prowse also didn’t relish the idea of being stuck in the Chewbacca suit, exclaiming “I thought, ‘Oh, God no, three months in a gorilla skin, no thank you very much.’”

david prowse

( Prowse in 1978. image: Colin Davey/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Many took to social media to remember Prowse:

In 2011, Prowse published his memoir, Straight from the Force’s Mouth. In 2015, he appeared in a documentary about his life titled I Am Your Father. Prowse was also a welcome presence at several fan conventions throughout his life, and relished his role in the iconic franchise.

May the Force be with him.

(via New York Times, featured image: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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