Dave Prowse, the original Darth Vader, dies at 85

(Courtesy: CNN/David Prowse dies at 85)
(Courtesy: CNN/David Prowse dies at 85) (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

LONDON – Dave Prowse, the British weightlifter-turned-actor who was the body, though not the voice, of arch-villain Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, has died. He was 85.

Prowse died Saturday after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said Sunday.

Born in Bristol, southwest England, in 1935, Prowse was a three-time British weightlifting champion and represented England in weightlifting at the 1962 Commonwealth Games before breaking into movies with roles that emphasized his commanding size, including Frankenstein’s monster in a pair of Hammer Studios horror films.

Director George Lucas saw Prowse in a small part in “A Clockwork Orange” and asked the 6-foot-6-inch (almost 2-meter) actor to audition for the villainous Vader or the Wookie Chewbacca in “Star Wars.”

Prowse later told the BBC he chose Darth Vader because “you always remember the bad guys.”

Physically, Prowse was perfect for the part. Yet his lilting English West Country accent was considered less than ideal and his lines were dubbed by James Earl Jones.

Prowse donned Darth Vader's black armor and helmet for “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi" (1983).

He expressed some regret that, thanks to Vader's mask, “I can walk around with complete anonymity."