Darth Vader Actor David Prowse Dies at 85, Mark Hamill and Other ‘Star Wars’ Actors React

The Star Wars franchise has lost a legend. David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died at the age of 85. Prowse reportedly died after a short illness, according to his agent, Thomas Bowington.

“May the force be with him, always!” Bowington said in a statement to BBC. “Though famous for playing many monsters – for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives.”

English actor David Prowse poses with a fan dressed up in a Darth Vader costume during a Star Wars convention on April 27, 2013 | Thierry Zoccolan/AFP via Getty Images
English actor David Prowse poses with a fan dressed up in a Darth Vader costume during a Star Wars convention on April 27, 2013 | Thierry Zoccolan/AFP via Getty Images

Who was David Prowse?

Prowse was a bodybuilder-turned-actor who played the physique of Darth Vader in 1977’s A New Hope, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, and 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Darth Vader was voiced by James Earl Jones, Bob Anderson was the Vader stunt double, and Sebastian Shaw played the face of Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Prowse was also famous in the U.K. for playing the road safety advocate Green Cross Code Man, for which he earned the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)—an honor bestowed upon British civilians for their contributions to the arts and sciences.

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David Prowse and George Lucas famously didn’t get along

George Lucas and Prowse had a tense relationship during the filming of the original Star Wars trilogy. In 2010, the actor said he stopped getting invitations to official Star Wars events because he’d “burnt too many bridges” over the years with Lucasfilm.

The tense relationship between the actor and Lucas reportedly started because Prowse allegedly wasn’t told his voice would be dubbed over by Jones. He found out after A New Hope premiered. He also reportedly felt slighted when Shaw was cast as the face of Anakin Skywalker.

Prowse also reportedly guessed the “I am your father” plot twist before The Empire Strikes Back even began filming. And according to Den of Geek, he was “somewhat intoxicated” at a Star Wars fan event when he said to the crowd, “Father can’t kill son, son can’t kill father. So they live again to star in Star Wars IV.”

Lucas found out about Prowse spilling the Darth Vader beans, resulting in Prowse being labeled a “security threat” to the major plot twist, which was kept secret from everyone on set other than Mark Hamill, who was told the night before filming. When it was time to film the infamous Empire Strikes Back scene, Prowse was told to say that Obi-Wan Kenobi was Luke’s father.

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Mark Hamill says David Prowse was ‘much more than Darth Vader’

As for Hamill, the Luke Skywalker actor had nothing but kind words to say about the late star.

“So sad to hear David Prowse has passed,” he tweeted on Nov. 29. “He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader. Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP.”

C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels also tweeted about Prowse’s death, saying the actor gave Vader a “mighty presence.”

“More sad news. Dave has gone,” he wrote. “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.”

The official Twitter account of original Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, who died in 2019, also reacted to the news of Prowse’s death. The tweet featured an old picture of Prowse, Mayhew, and R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker, who died in 2016.

“RIP Dave Prowse,” the tweet read. “I hope you’re up there sharing a pint and a story with the boys.”

Daniel Logan, who played young Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars, also tweeted in honor of Prowse.

“Sad to hear of the passing of a #StarWars family member,” he said. “RIP Dave Prowse. Darth Vader wouldn’t be the same without you in the costume. We had many fun times & laughs at cons together over the years. Glad to have been able to call you a friend. Rest now and be one with the Force!”