Although James Earl Jones provided the voice for the space villain, it was Prowse’s 6-foot-7-inch frame that hid beneath Vader’s armor while he matched lightsabers with his son Luke Skywalker.
The actor’s lines were dubbed because of his Bristol, England, accent, according to BBC News.
Mark Hamill, who played Skywalker, shared a tribute to Prowse in a Twitter post early Sunday.
“So sad to hear David Prowse has passed,” Hamill wrote. “He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader. Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him.”
Prowse’s management company Bowington Management confirmed that the actor died following a short illness, writing on Twitter “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 at the age of 85.”
The actor was also good friends with fellow competitors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno in his early years as a weightlifter.
Prowse was asked to audition for the roles of Darth Vader and Chewbacca after “Star Wars” director George Lucas saw him in “A Clockwork Orange,” but he told BBC News in an interview he chose Vader because ”you always remember the bad guys.”
He also had roles in “The Saint,” “Doctor Who,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and played Frankenstein in three different movies, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Prowse was famous across the pond for playing Britain’s Green Cross Code Man, a character created in the 1970s to teach children about road safety. In 2000, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his service in that role.