DARTH Vader actor Dave Prowse has died of coronavirus, his daughter said yesterday.
The 6-foot-6 former bodybuilder played the legendary villain in the original Star Wars films.
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The Bristol-born star – also road safety superhero The Green Cross Man – had been in a London hospital for two weeks with Covid. He was 85 years old.
Luke Skywalker star Mark Hamill, 69, tweeted: “So sad to hear David Prowse has passed away. He was a nice man and more than Darth Vader.
Actor, husband, father, member of the Order of the British Empire, three-time British weightlifting champion and safety icon The Green Cross Code Man.
“He loved his fans as much as they loved him. ”
Due to the stature of the three-year-old father, he played a variety of villains and monsters.
But his daughter Rachel, 50, said: “He might have looked pretty scary, but as a person he was a gentle, kind and generous man.
“He was really a gentle giant. And for us, he was our father.
Rachel, from Croydon, south London, confirmed that Dave was previously diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
She added: ‘It’s horrible that the Covid restrictions mean we haven’t been able to see him and say goodbye to him.
“But when we got his things from the hospital, the nurse said how cool he was.
“He was such a larger than life character. He would have loved to see himself fashionable on Twitter. ”
Dave started his career as a bodybuilder, weightlifter and personal trainer.
Among his clients was Christopher Reeve, whom he helped train for the role of Superman.
In the 1960s and 70s, he appeared in cult series including The Saint, Department S, Space 1999, The Champions and Doctor Who, opposite Jon Pertwee.
His film debut was 1967 James Bond parody Casino Royale, as the creature of Frankenstein. He played the monster two more times in the Hammer horror films.
On television he has worked with the two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd.
He looked so funny, but he had the last laugh
By Garth Pearce, the only journalist on the set of Star Wars in 1976
He was dressed in what looked like black trash bags, sewn together, and had a black helmet that appeared to be made of cardboard.
He was, I was told, the villain called Darth Vader who would intrigue and terrify audiences when the movie came out in 1977.
He then began to act. All I could hear was that strangled Somerset accent emerging from behind the wobbly black suit.
He had humor and honesty towards himself and his abilities. “As a child, I suspected tuberculosis and was hospitalized for about a year,” he said. “I was in an iron for three years.
“When I was 17, I bought a Charles Atlas course to develop my knees. I became very interested in the exercises.
He lived in Bristol with his mother – his father died when he was five – until he was 28. “I couldn’t afford to move,” he says.
So what was the movie about Dave? “I haven’t,” he said with that warm, creamy accent, “a clue. ”
Audiences laughed at themselves when they saw this incomprehensible film with characters with strange names in even stranger costumes. Even more when they saw and heard the great Dave stake.
But he had none. “I’ve been on enough film sets to know this one has something special,” he insisted. “I think it will be a huge success.”
At the premiere the following year, Dave was amazed to hear James Earl Jones doubling his voice – and even more amazed that no one bothered to tell him.
But he was right from the start. The film spawned a franchise that is one of the most popular in movie history.
Dave Prowse had the last laugh after all.
But he was most proud of his role as Green Cross Code Man, appearing in a TV campaign and on tour in schools.
He received the MBE for helping reduce road fatalities – before turning to the dark side as the legendary villainous Sith Vader.
Star Wars director George Lucas offered him a choice of plays, Vader or Chewbacca. When asked why he went with the first one, he replied, “Everyone remembers the bad guy. ”
Princess Leia actress Carrie Fisher dubbed him “Dark Farmer” for his thick West Country accent, and his lines were voiced by James Earl Jones.
Lucas is believed to have been concerned that Dave had leaked plot details – which he denied – and the couple had not spoken since Return Of The Jedi ended in 1983.
But last night Lucas said on the official Star Wars website, “David brought a physicality to Darth Vader that was essential to the character.
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“He blew Vader off the page and onto the big screen, with a towering stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader’s presence.
“David was ready for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable tragic figure. May he rest in peace. ”
Darth Vader has become one of the most iconic characters in movie history and, until his retirement in 2016, Dave visited fan conventions all over the world.
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