LONDON – David Prowse, the British weightlifter-turned-actor who was the body, though not the voice, of arch-villain Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, has died. He was 85.
Prowse died in a London hospital Saturday after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said.
Born in Bristol, southwest England, in 1935, Prowse was a three-time British weightlifting champ.
He represented England in weightlifting at the 1962 Commonwealth Games before breaking into movies with roles that emphasized his commanding size, including Frankenstein’s monster in a pair of Hammer Studios horror films.
Director George Lucas saw Prowse in a small part in “A Clockwork Orange” and asked the 6-foot-6-inch actor to audition for the villainous Vader or the Wookie Chewbacca in “Star Wars.”
Prowse later told the BBC he chose Darth Vader because “you always remember the bad guys.”
Physically, Prowse was perfect for the part. His lilting English West Country accent was considered less ideal, and his lines were dubbed by James Earl Jones.
Prowse donned Darth Vader’s black armor and helmet for “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” (1983).
He expressed some regret that, thanks to Vader’s mask, “I can walk around with complete anonymity.”
“All actors crave recognition and I’d like to have some like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo,” he told the Associated Press in 1980. “Fortune tends to follow fame.”Prowse also worked as a trainer for other actors, helping Christopher Reeve prepare to be the Man of Steel in hit 1978 film “Superman.”
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