Dave Prowse, the Bristol actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died aged 85.
The weightlifter-turned-actor, who also earned an MBE for playing the Green Cross Code Man to promote road safety, died after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said in a Facebook post.
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, described him as “a kind man” who “loved his fans as much as they loved him”.
Hamill tweeted: “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”
Prowse won the role playing Vader due to his impressive 6ft 6in physique, but with his West Country accent deemed not quite suitable, the part was instead voiced by James Earl Jones.
“May the force be with him, always!” Mr Bowington said in a statement to the BBC.
“Though famous for playing many monsters – for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives.”
Mr Bowington called the actor’s death, after a short illness, “a truly and deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world”.
Prowse represented England in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games in the early 1960s before embarking on an acting career.
He was reportedly spotted by Star Wars director George Lucas when playing a bodyguard in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, and invited to audition for the roles of Darth Vader and Chewbacca.
He once told the BBC he chose Vader over his hairy co-star because “you always remember the bad guys”.
Film director Edgar Wright described him as the man who “stopped a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in the street”.
“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.”
The Twitter account of the Peter Mayhew Foundation, set up in memory of the actor who played Chewbacca, shared a picture of Prowse with Mayhew and their co-star Kenny Baker.
“RIP Dave Prowse. I hope you’re up there sharing a pint and a story with the boys. #DarthVader #DaveProwse #RIPDaveProwse #StarWars.”
Mayhew died in 2019 and Baker, who played R2-D2, died in 2016.