Dave Prowse, the Actor Beneath Darth Vader’s Armour, Has Died at 85

Dave Prowse, the Actor Beneath Darth Vader’s Armour, Has Died at 85
Dave Prowse in 1978. (Photo: Colin Davey, Getty Images)

Dave Prowse, born in 1935 in Bristol, was an actor and bodybuilder best known for his role as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, a role he played on screen while James Earl Jones dubbed over his voice. Now, the actor has passed away. He was 85 years old.

The news comes courtesy of his agent, Thomas Bowington, who shared the news on Twitter, saying, “It’s with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and millions of fans around the world, to announce that our client DAVE PROWSE M.B.E. has passed away at the age of 85.”

Prowse began his career as a bodybuilder, training alongside the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger before transitioning to a career in Hollywood, working as an actor and personal trainer for talent like Christopher Reeves, for whom he helped prepare for his role as Superman. After playing a bodyguard in A Clockwork Orange, he was asked to audition for Star Wars by George Lucas, where he netted the role of Darth Vader. Well, mostly — his voice stayed on the sound stage. He didn’t get to show his face in the role, either, as that honour in Return of the Jedi went to Sebastian Shaw.

All the same, Prowse and his tall, muscular physicality are inseparable from the role of Darth Vader, and he deserves substantial credit for bringing the villain to life in an imposing fashion. It wasn’t his only big nerdy film role, either — he guested on shows like Doctor Who in the 1970s and also played Frankenstein’s Monster a few times. He also played the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero designed to promote British road safety, which in 2014 he called “the ultimate honour.”

Reportedly, the actor died after a short, unspecified illness. He will be missed.