The man behind the Darth Vader mask in the first three Star Wars films, English actor David Prowse, died on Saturday after a short illness at 85. Although most fans recognize James Earl Jones’ voice as Vader’s, it was Prowse, a champion weightlifter and bodybuilder who stood 6-foot-7, that wore the villain’s costume.
On Twitter, Bowington Management announced his passing with “great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world.” The actor, who also played Frankenstein in three films: the James Bond parody Casino Royale (1967), The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974), appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) as the manservant of author Frank Alexander (Patrick Magee).
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Behind the scenes, he helped Christopher Reeve bulk up for the Superman films. Prowse was a household name in the UK for portraying the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero in PSAs that taught children to cross the street safely from 1967 through 1990. For his service, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. “It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done,” he said of the role.
Born on July 1, 1935, in Bristol, England, Prowse was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis of the knee and wore a leg splint for four years as a child. Despite his difficult start in life, he went on to compete for the Mr. Universe bodybuilding title in 1960 before winning the British weightlifting championship for three years in a row from 1962-64. His first roles included appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies, The Saint and Doctor Who, as well as in a toy commercial, The Mighty Tonka, which was directed by Ridley Scott.
His role in A Clockwork Orange led George Lucas to offer him a part in the first Star Wars (1977). “Lucas said to me, ‘You’ve got a choice of two characters in the movie,” Prowse said in a 2016 interview. “He said, ‘There’s a character called Chewbacca, which is like a huge teddy bear, or alternatively, there’s the main villain in the piece.’ Well, there’s no choice, is there? Thank you very much, I’ll have the villain’s piece.”
Prowse was married in 1963 to Norma Scammell and had three children. In October 2017, he announced that he was retiring and would no longer make public appearances.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
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