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Dave Prowse, the actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars film trilogy, has died, aged 85.
The British star’s agent, Thomas Bowington, announced the news, stating: “May the force be with him, always.”
Prowse, who was a bodybuilder before appearing in the George Lucas franchise, was also known for playing the Green Cross Code Man in a television road safety campaign aimed at children.
Introduced in 1975, the superhero character became something of a cultural icon and Prowse’s efforts over a 14-year stint saw him awarded an MBE in 2000. He later called the job, which had the catchphrase “Stop, Look and Listen” as “the best [he] ever had”.
Prowse may have scored the role of Star Wars villain Vader due to his imposing 6ft 6in stature, but producers decided his West Country accent was less of a fit, and insisted on using a different actor’s voice.
James Earl Jones delivered the character’s lines, but Prowse was chosen to wear the costume after Lucas spotted him playing a hulking bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971).
According to the actor, he was first offered the role of Chewbacca, but chose Vader as he wanted to play a villain.
Following his first role as Frankenstein’s creature in James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967), he returned to play the same character in two Hammer Film productions, Horror of Frankenstein (1970) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974).
He also played the Minotaur in a 1972 episode of Doctor Who.
“Though famous for playing many monsters – for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives,” Bowington said.
He described Prowse’s death as “a truly and deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world”.
Prowse became a regular presence at sci-fi and fantasy conventions where he would meet and chat with Star Wars aficionados.
Tributes to the late actor were led by Mark Hamill, who played Prowse’s onscreen son Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies and said he was “so sad” to hear the news.
“He was a kind man and much more than Darth Vader,” Hamill said on Twitter. “He loved his fans as much as they loved him.”
Anthony Daniels, who has played C-3PO in 11 of the 12 Star Wars instalments, paid tribute to Prowse’s contribution to the sci-fi franchise.
“Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since,” he said.
Writer and director Edgar Wright tweeted: “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.”