David Prowse, The Actor Who Played Darth Vader, Dies Aged 85
When we think of Darth Vader, we often do so in the iconic voice of James Earl Jones. However, another actor first brought the Sith Lord to life. David Prowse, who played Darth Vader on the set, passed away this week at the age of 85. From Bristol, England, David Prowse made his mark on the world long before he donned the armor of the dark lord. He and his brother dedicated their lives to physical fitness. When they opened their family chain of gyms, personal fitness training was still a very new business. However, it was his imposing physique that inspired George Lucas to bring him in to audition for Vader and Chewbacca. Prowse often said he chose the Vader role, because kids better remember the bad guys.
However, even without Darth Vader on his résumé, David Prowse would be well remembered. Along with his pioneering personal training business, Prowse found himself drawn to film production. Prowse worked with Christopher Reeve, helping the Juilliard-trained thespian bulk up to play Superman in Richard Donner’s film. He appeared as a menacing bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (where Lucas, reportedly, first saw him). He appeared in other genre classics like Doctor Who, the Hammer film series, and other cult classics. Also, from his time as a weightlifter, he became friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. Yup, just Darth Vader chilling with the Terminator and the Hulk.
Prowse reportedly passed away after “a short illness.”
As the BBC reports:
“Prowse…was most proud of playing the Green Cross Code Man. The role, promoting road safety in the UK, earned him an MBE.
“’May the force be with him, always!’ said his agent Thomas Bowington. ‘Though famous for playing many monsters – for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives.’”
The Green Cross Man was a public safety superhero, costume and all, who would warn kids about being careful in the street. “Stop, look, and listen,” was his slogan. Along with a series of television and radio public service announcements, Prowse would also meet with kids in person at events.
David Prowse wrote an autobiography, titled Straight from the Force’s Mouth, in 2011. Mark Hamill and others in the industry took to Twitter to share their memories of the man.
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 pic.twitter.com/VbDrGu6iBz
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) November 29, 2020
#DaveProwse has passed away. #fanfamily We knew him best as #DarthVader Dave got me into shape/trained me for my Role in Matador. He was a genuine, kind, loving man, loved life, family, fitness and his fans. Dave was a huge part of our #confamily his smile will be missed. Jb pic.twitter.com/t91c5JCcTS
— John Barrowman MBE (@JohnBarrowman) November 29, 2020
Hearing reports that Dave Prowse has passed away. As many of you will know, Dave most famously played Darth Vader in #StarWars, but he also played The Minotaur in the 1972 #DoctorWho story, The Time Monster. RIP to a genuine legend. pic.twitter.com/f8wpKMr9H4
— Doctor Who Online (@DrWhoOnline) November 29, 2020
As a kid Dave Prowse couldn’t be more famous to me; stalking along corridors as evil incarnate in the part of Darth Vader & stopping a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in street as the Green Cross Code man. Rest in Peace, Bristol’s finest. https://t.co/VYdxM37JWb
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) November 29, 2020
Sad to hear of the passing of a #StarWars family member. RIP Dave Prowse. Darth Vader wouldn’t be the same without you in the costume. We had many fun times & laughs at cons together over the years. Glad to have been able to call you a friend. Rest now and be one with the Force! pic.twitter.com/st28CQGckF
— Daniel Logan (@Daniel_Logan) November 29, 2020
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.
— Anthony Daniels (@ADaniels3PO) November 29, 2020
— Peter Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) November 29, 2020
I met Dave Prowse a few years ago, he came up to my booth at a con, he wanted to buy my Star Wars posters. I insisted that they were a gift. He was so gracious and we had a lovely chat. He was still asking to pay me for them as he left, I think I said “Darth Vader doesn’t pay.” pic.twitter.com/kzsG0STlKD
— Matt Ferguson (@Cakes_Comics) November 29, 2020
“I’d worked in A Clockwork Orange with Stanley Kubrick and, since Stanley was such a prestigious director, this opened up all sorts of doors for me.” David Prowse, 1 July, 1935 – 28 November, 2020. pic.twitter.com/QdI2gxUJjY
— Stanley Kubrick (@StanleyKubrick) November 29, 2020
Dave Prowse has died aged 85. In 1977, he delighted school kids in Belfast, as the Green Cross Code Man. pic.twitter.com/FrDLled0F3
— BBC Archive (@BBCArchive) November 29, 2020
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Featured image via PA Media
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.