Dave Prowse, Man Behind Darth Vader’s Mask, Is Dead at 85

Dave Prowse, the British actor who gave the imposing physical presence — but not the voice — to Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died on Saturday in a hospital in London. He was 85.

Mr. Prowse’s death was confirmed by Thomas Bowington, his agent. Mr. Prowse’s family did not release a cause of death, but he retired in 2016 because of ill health, Mr. Bowington said.

Standing 6-foot-6 and with a physique honed by years of weight lifting (he was once the British heavyweight champion), Mr. Prowse had the perfect presence for the role of Darth Vader, whom he played in 1977’s “Star Wars,” in “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and in “Return of the Jedi” in 1983.

He was scouted for the role by George Lucas, the franchise’s creator, who had seen Mr. Prowse play a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.”

In the BBC interview, Mr. Prowse said that it was not actually his accent that had led to the change. Wearing Darth Vader’s mask had caused his lines to come out muffled during filming, he said, and Mr. Lucas did not have time to fly him out to America to overdub the lines afterward.

Mr. Prowse only learned that his voice was missing from the film at its premiere. “I’m watching the film and all of a sudden this strange voice comes over,” he told the BBC in the 2013 interview. “I thought, ‘Oh, goodness me, that’s not me.’” But he said that Mr. Jones had been “a great choice” for the part and the pair became friends.

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