David Prowse, the British weightlifter who became a film icon for his role as Darth Vader in the Star Wars trilogy, has died at 85.

The bodybuilder-turned-actor played the physique of the iconic villain from the three original Star Wars films. However, Vader’s role was voiced by James Earl Jones, and fight scenes were done by former Olympic fencer Bob Anderson.

His agent, Thomas Bowington, said in a statement that Prowse died after a brief illness.

May the force be with him, always! Though famous for playing many monsters – for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives,” Bowington said, adding that Prowse’s passing was heartbreaking for “millions of fans all over the world.”

The bodybuilder made his film debut in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale. His minor part in the flic landed him several other roles, eventually leading to an invitation to audition for 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Prowse was given the choice of playing Vader or Chewbacca. 

In later years he became a regular at Star Wars conventions and fan meet-ups. A native of Bristol in southwest England, he published an autobiography, Straight from the Force’s Mouth, in 2011.

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