David Prowse, the actor who played Darth Vader in the first three Star Wars films, died on Saturday, November 28, at the age of 85, yet the cause of death was unspecified at the time. Yet in an interview with The Sun, Prowse’s daughter Rachel has stated that her father died due to the coronavirus.
Rachel Prowse said that her father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s previously and that he had been in a London hospital for the last two weeks due to COVID-19. Rachel Prowse stated, “It’s horrible that Covid restrictions meant we did not get to see him and say goodbye,” yet Rachel also said, “when we went to collect his stuff from the hospital the nurse said what a cool guy he was.” Rachel Prowse also called the Darth Vader actor a gentle giant, who was a “sweet, kind and generous man.”
David Prowse was most well-known for playing the physical character of Darth Vader in 1977’s Star Wars, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, and 1983’s Return of the Jedi. While Prowse played the body of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones famously would perform the voice of the character. Prowse received the part of Darth Vader because George Lucas had remembered the actor in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick classic A Clockwork Orange. Lucas asked the British actor if he would prefer to play Chewbacca or Darth Vader, and Prowse easily chose Darth Vader.
David Prowse had an impressive career beyond Darth Vader, appearing in such shows as The Beverly Hillbillies, Doctor Who, and The Benny Hill Show. Prowse also was cast in Terry Gilliam’s 1977 film Jabberwocky, and the actor would play Frankenstein’s monster in three different films: the 1967 spy parody Casino Royale, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and in The Horror of Frankenstein.
While it was the physicality of David Prowse in A Clockwork Orange that stood out for George Lucas, making Prowse a great choice for Darth Vader, that was because Prowse was also an accomplished bodybuilder. Prowse won several heavyweight weightlifting championships and was a fitness consultant for the British department store Harrods. Prowse also played the well-known U.K. character Green Cross Code Man, a superhero that was used in a series of public service announcements to teach kids how to cross the street safely. Prowse would play the character from 1967 to 1990, and for playing Green Cross Code Man, Prowse was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
Not only was David Prowse behind the iconic character of Darth Vader, but he also was Christopher Reeve’s trainer for the 1978 Superman, and trained Cary Elwes for his role as Westley in The Princess Bride. In 2011, Prowse released his autobiography Straight from the Force’s Mouth, and in 2016, he retired from making public appearances.
Many actors from the Star Wars universe paid their respects to David Prowse over the weekend. Mark Hamill on Twitter called Prowse “a kind man & much more than Darth Vader,” while Billy Dee Williams said, “It was a great gift to work with him and an honor to call him my friend.” Prowse was an important part of film history and he leaves behind a legacy that proves he was more than just the man behind the mask.