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'Star Wars' original Darth Vader, David Prowse, dead at 85

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Dave Prowse in 2013; THIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP via Getty Images(LONDON) — David Prowse, the British bodybuilder-turned-actor who wore the menacing black suit of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died.  He was 85.

Prowse’s managers confirmed the news via Twitter, writing in part, “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.”

Standing 6’7″ in his prime, Prowse parlayed his physical stature into a film career, with a role as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 cult classic A Clockwork Orange, which caught the eye of Star Wars creator George Lucas when he needed to fill the menacing boots of his Dark Lord of the Sith.  James Earl Jones famously provided Vader’s unmistakable baritone growl after production, which came as a surprise to Prowse, who thought his arguably far less menacing pipes would be used onscreen.

Prowse appeared in numerous television shows and movies, including Doctor Who and as Frankenstein’s monster in several Hammer horror films.  A champion weightlifter, he used his experience to train celebrities such as Christopher Reeve for 1978’s Superman and Carey Elwes in The Princess Bride.

Prowse was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2000 for services to charity for starring in a series of road safety ads for children in the ’70s, and he continued to be a presence at science fiction conventions and the like until his retirement in 2016.

On Twitter, his onscreen son, Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga, remembered Prowse as, “a kind man & much more than Darth Vader.” Hamill added, “He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP.”

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