British actor Dave Prowse who portrayed the role of the iconic Star Wars villain Darth Vader has died at the age of 85, his agent said on Sunday.
The agency Bowington Management said that the death of the former bodybuilder-turned actor following a short illness “is a deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world.”
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, tweeted that he was “so sad to hear David Prowse has passed.”
“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. He loved his fans as much as they loved him,” Hamill wrote.
While he donned the glossy black armour and cape, Prowse's strong western English accent meant the filmmakers turned to US actor James Earl Jones for the chilling voice that would emerge from behind Darth Vader's mask.
Prowse was born in Bristol on July 1, 1935 to a working class family, winning a scholarship to the prestigious local school Bristol Grammar. He soon developed a love for weightlifting and went on to represent his country at the Commonwealth Games in the early 1960s before forging a career in Hollywood.
He trained Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman and was reportedly spotted by Star Wars director George Lucas as an extra in 1971's 'A Clockwork Orange'.
Lucas asked him to audition for the roles of Vader and hairy giant Chewbacca, with Prowse choosing the former.
His other film credits include 'Minotaur' and 'Jabberwocky', and he also appeared in many TV shows including 'The Saint' and 'The Benny Hill Show".
Since the original Star Wars trilogy was released in the late 1970s and early 80s, Prowse had travelled the world meeting hardcore fans. However, it was reported that he later fell out with director Lucas and was banned from official events in 2010.