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David Prowse: British actor who played Darth Vader dies aged 85

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British actor David Prowse poses during the photocall for the presentation of the film "I Am Your Father" in Madrid. November 18, 2015.
British actor David Prowse poses during the photocall for the presentation of the film "I Am Your Father" in Madrid. November 18, 2015.   -   Copyright  PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP
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David Prowse, the British actor who played the iconic villain Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy has died aged 85 after a short illness.

"For myself & all that knew him he was a hero. May the force be with him, always,” his agent Thomas Bowington said in a statement.

"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," Bowington Management said on a tweeted.

A former weightlifter and bodybuilder, he became a film icon for portraying the imposing physical figure of Vadar in the sci-fi franchise.

The character's voice was done by US actor James Earl Jones.

The actor, who worked in British film and television, also starred in a documentary concerning the role of Vadar entitled I Am Your Father.

Prowse also established himself as a prominent figure in British culture as the first Green Cross Code man — a character used in road safety advertising aimed at children.

He won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship for three consecutive years from 1962-1964, representing England in the weightlifting event at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia.

Prowse helped prepare Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in the 1978 film as his personal trainer after initially going for the part himself.

Prowse also became fitness consultant to the UK's upmarket department store Harrods and opened a series of gyms, notably The Dave Prowse Fitness Centre in Southwark, London.

Prowse initially spoke the dialogue of Darth Vadar during filming, but George Lucas claimed he wanted a "darker voice", deeming his West Country accent unsuitable for the character.

In October 2016, the actor announced his retirement from all public appearances and events, later attributing the decision to ill health and the wishes of his family.