David Prowse, Man Behind the Darth Vader Mask, Dies at 85

The Englishman worked on the first three 'Star Wars' films, but it was James Earl Jones' voice, not his, that was heard. He could have played Chewbacca instead.

David Prowse, the champion English weightlifter and bodybuilder who supplied his 6-foot-7 frame — but not the voice or the deep breathing — to portray Darth Vader in the original*Star Wars*trilogy, died early Saturday morning following a short illness. He was 85.

Prowse's death was confirmed to*The Hollywood Reporter*by his agent Thomas Bowington. Bowington Management also*shared*the news on Twitter, announcing his passing with "great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world."

Appropriately, the strapping Prowse also portrayed the Frankenstein monster in three movies: the James Bond spoof*Casino Royale*(1967) and, for Hammer Films,*The Horror of Frankenstein*(1970) and*Frankenstein*and the Monster From Hell*(1974), the last opposite a future*Star Wars*co-star, Peter Cushing.

In Stanley Kubrick's*A Clockwork Orange*(1971), Prowse appeared as the*muscular manservant*working for author Frank Alexander (Patrick Magee), and he later helped a slender Christopher Reeve bulk up for the role of the Man of Steel in the Superman films.

Prowse was well-known in the U.K. for portraying the*Green Cross Code Man*— a superhero-like character used in public-service advertisements to help children get across the street safely — from 1967 through 1990. For that, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.

"It's one of the greatest things I've ever done," he once said.