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Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies at 85; Mark Hamill and others pay tribute

George Lucas, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis and more honor the actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films.

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Actor David Prowse played villain Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movies, while actor James Earl Jones provided the voice.
Lucasfilm

David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movies, has died at 85, the actor's family and management team said Saturday. Prowse's daughter Rachel confirmed that he had previously been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease

Prowse's death is "a truly and deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world," his agent Thomas Bowington told the BBC.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, his family wasn't able to visit him in the hospital. According to UK newspaper The Sun, Prowse was reportedly in a London hospital for two weeks with COVID.

"It's horrible that COVID restrictions meant we did not get to see him and say goodbye," Rachel told The Sun.

Star Wars creator George Lucas recalled David bringing a physicality to Darth Vader "that was essential for the character. He made Vader leap off the page and on to the big screen, Star Wars creator George Lucas said in a statement with an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader's presence. David was up for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable, tragic figure. May he rest in peace."

Prowse was best known for his role as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars film trilogy that included A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Legend has it Prowse was given alternate lines to say in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi so the big reveal in the movies would be kept secret. 

But because of his prominent UK accent, his voice was considered unsuitable for the part of the intimidating sci-fi villain, so his dialog was dubbed over by the voice of actor James Earl Jones.

Prowse was also famous for his role as UK road safety character Green Cross Code Man, who reminded kids to "Stop, look and listen" before crossing a street. This role earned him the status of Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

Prowse's long career included memorable characters in the films A Clockwork Orange, Horror of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, as well as the TV shows The Saint, Space 1999 and Doctor Who.

He published his autobiography Straight from the Force's Mouth in 2011.

"So sad to hear David Prowse has passed," fellow Star Wars actor Mark Hamill tweeted on Sunday. "He was a kind man and much more than Darth Vader. ... He loved his fans as much as they loved him."

Star Wars actor Billy Dee Williams also tweeted his condolences."Incredibly sad to hear Dave Prowse has passed. It was a great gift to work with him and an honor to call him my friend."

Actor Anthony Daniels, who played protocol droid C-3PO in the Star Wars movies, also tweeted about Prowse's passing. "More sad news; Dave has gone," Daniels tweeted. "I don't think 3PO ever faced Vader's mighty presence on set, other than as a bag of bits on Chewie's shoulders in the carbon freezer. But Dave's iconic figure dominated the finished film in '77 and has done so ever since. And will continue to do so."

Actor Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, tweeted his thoughts about Prowse as well. "So sad to hear of the passing of a Star Wars family member, Dave Prowse," Davis tweeted. "He taught me to cross the road safely #GreenXCode & a signed Darth Vader poster from him took pride of place on my bedroom wall. To the 11-year-old me he was a true hero. Now one with the Force. RIP Dave Prowse."

Young Boba Fett actor Daniel Logan also paid tribute. "Sad to hear of the passing of a Star Wars family member - RIP Dave Prowse," Logan tweeted. "Darth Vader wouldn't be the same without you in the costume."

Star Wars fans took to social media to pay tribute to Prowse and his legacy. Here are some of their comments. 

Originally published on Nov. 29. Updated with more specifics regarding his death on Dec. 1.