Former weightlifting champion turned actor David Prowse died November 28 at the age of 85 after what his agent called a short illness.
Prowse is best known for his role as Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
After seeing his large stature – six foot six inches – “Star Wars” director George Lucas approached Prowse about auditioning either the role villian Darth Vader or Han Solo’s sidekick Chewbacca. Prowse noted that he chose to play Vader because people remember the villain.
Prowse’s stature made him perfect for the role of Vader,, but his lilting accent was seen as a detriment and the voice of Vader was given to James Earl Jones with his deep commanding voice. In “Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi”, the role of Vader in his death scene was given to “starving actor” Sebastian Shaw.
While the costume placed Prowse in the world of anonymity; he was well known to thousands of British children as the traffic crossing superhero Green Cross Code Man.
He began his acting career on the London stage in “Don’t Let Summer Come” as Death. Next came television commercials, and finally film and television productions.
Appearing in over 70 productions, Prowse make his acting debut in 1956 in a episode of the daytime drama “The Edge of Night”. From there his appearances included the original “Casino Royale”, “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “The Saint”, “The Horror of Frankenstein”, “A Clockwork Orange”, “Doctor Who”, “The Tomorrow People”, “Little House on the Prairie”, “Space 1999”, the films in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “The Benny Hill Show”, and his final role in 2016 as Professor Henry Wales in “Mission Backup Earth”.
The former weightlifter also worked to help his fellow actors prepare for roles including “Superman” Christopher Reeve.
He was born David Charles Prowse on July 1, 1935 in Bristol, England. His father died when young David was only five years old.
The Bristol native is a three time weightlifting champion who represented England in the Commonwealth Games in 1962.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II presented Prowse with the Member of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to charity and road safety awareness.
He is survived by his wife Norma of 57 years and their children – Steve, James, and Rachel.
feature photo credit: By Xanathon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27631482