Darth Vader Actor David Prowse Is Dead At 85

David Prowse as Darth Vader in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

David Prowse, the former bodybuilder who physically played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died. The actor reportedly passed away Saturday morning following a brief illness. He was 85 at the time of his passing.

News of David Prowse’s death was confirmed to trades like The Hollywood Reporter by his manager Thomas Bowington. In addition, Bowington Management also confirmed his death in a post on Twitter:

It's with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world, to announce that our client DAVE PROWSE M.B.E. has passed away at the age of 85.

Born on July 1, 1935, David Prowse was raised in Bristol, England. In his youth, he was quite tall, and he would eventually grow to be 6-foot-7. The imposing young man would eventually become interested in bodybuilding, and he would find success at the 1961 British heavyweight weightlifting championship. He would also win the competition in 1962 and the two years that followed.

David Prowse would eventually find his way into acting and landed roles in TV shows like The Tomorrow People and Space: 1999. He also made his way to the big screen by way of movies like Vampire Circus and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. He also notably played the role of Frankenstein’s monster in three films.

His role as bodyguard Julian in A Clockwork Orange would ultimately lead him to his most iconic role, as the film would put him on George Lucas’ radar. Lucas believed he would be the perfect person to portray the physical form of Darth Vader but thought his West Country accent wouldn’t match the character. This ultimately led to James Earl Jones being brought in to voice the character. Prowse went onto play the character in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. He was originally promised that he would be seen and heard at the end of Jedi, but actor Sebastian Stan was ultimately utilized.

Despite his face having never been shown in a Star Wars film, Prowse still became widely beloved among the fanbase and would use his association with the film to travel the convention circuit for much of his later life. He would come into conflict with Lucas later on, as the producer accuse Prowse of leaking news of Darth Vader’s death to the media and ultimately banned him from Star Wars conventions. Prowse would later see vindication when the journalist who broke the Vader story revealed that Prowse was not his source.

Aside from acting, Prowse also served as a trainer for actors, having served as Christopher Reeves’ trainer on Superman. He also trained Cary Elwes for his role in Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride.

Following the news of his passing, Lucasfilm also took to social media to pay tribute to the late Prowse. Check out the post down below:

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David Prowse truly left a mark in the world of bodybuilding and cinema. Many Star Wars fans remember the moment they saw Darth Vader for the first time, and Prowse’s imposing height is a major part of what made him so intimidating. Fans owe him so much for physically embodying the character in the way that he did.

We here at CinemaBlend extend our condolences to the loved ones of David Prowse at this time.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.