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David Prowse (1935–2020), original Darth Vader actor

by Stephen Segal

David Prowse, the English actor who appeared in the original Star Wars trilogy as Darth Vader, has died at the age of 85, his agent announced early Sunday morning.

David Prowse (Bob Olsen/Toronto Star/Getty Images)
David Prowse (Bob Olsen/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

The iconic movie villain

Prowse’s portrayal of the Star Wars series’ fearsome antagonist, a fallen Jedi Knight who turned to “the dark side of the Force,” brought the character to life for generations of moviegoers, science fiction fans, and children around the world. While the Vader we met onscreen was ultimately a team effort – actor James Earl Jones performed the villain’s unforgettably chilling voice, and artist Ralph McQuarrie conceived his black techno-armor – Prowse’s imposing physical presence made Vader the literal “big bad” to whom all future fantasy villains would be compared.

David Prowse, Kenny Baker (who portrays the robot character R2-D2), and Jack Purvis (who portrayed Teebo). (Photo by Bill Rowntree/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

A colorful career

In his 20s, Prowse, a native of Bristol, became the British heavyweight weightlifting champion before turning his attention to an acting career. Through the 1960s and ’70s, he appeared in numerous films and television series including Casino Royale, A Clockwork Orange, The Horror of Frankenstein, The Benny Hill Show, Doctor Who, and more. Before Star Wars, he was perhaps best known to British audiences as “The Green Cross Code Man,” a public-service superhero character who taught schoolchildren how to cross the street safety.

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Star Wars stars Harrison Ford, David Prowse, Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Mark Hamill in 1980. (Alisdair MacDonald/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Tributes to David Prowse

Full obituary: BBC News

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