Star Wars creator George Lucas has paid tribute to actor Dave Prowse after his death at the age of 85, saying he made Darth Vader “leap off the page”.
The US film-maker said Prowse had “an imposing stature and movement performance to match the intensity and undercurrent of Vader’s presence”.
He was “up for anything and contributed to the success of what would become a memorable, tragic figure”, Lucas said.
Prowse played the masked Vader in the original Star Wars film trilogy.
The character’s voice was provided by actor James Earl Jones, while Sebastian Shaw played Vader, aka Anakin Skywalker, when his iconic helmet was eventually removed.
Yet it was former bodybuilder Prowse who first brought a “physicality to Darth Vader” that Lucas said had been “essential for the character”.
“He made Vader leap off the page and on to the big screen,” the producer wrote in a tribute that concluded with the words: “May he rest in peace.”
Lucasfilm, the company Lucas sold to Disney in 2012, remembered Prowse’s “strongman’s physique” in its own tribute.
“Prowse’s Vader was an intimidating presence who, with simple gestures, could convey anger, sadness and lost hope,” it said.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Anthony Daniels said his Star Wars co-star had “made being bad cool”.
“Dave kind of invented this ability to ‘go to the dark side’ and be cool about it,” said Daniels, who played robot C-3PO.
“It was a lovely contrast because he was a very benign figure and really very calm and relaxed,” the actor continued.
“I’d see him round the set and he’d be lounging in one of those studio chairs. He was always very quietly-spoken, very unassuming.”
Billy Dee Williams, aka Lando Calrissian, also paid tribute, tweeting: “It was a great gift to work with him and an honour to call him my friend.”
Prowse’s career as an actor spanned 50 years, but it was his role in Star Wars and its first two sequels that brought him international fame.
The Bristol native and former bodybuilder was also fondly remembered for playing the Green Cross Code Man in a campaign promoting road safety in the UK.
“As a kid Dave Prowse couldn’t be more famous to me; stalking along corridors as evil incarnate in the part of Darth Vader & stopping a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in [the] street as the Green Cross Code man,” tweeted director Edgar Wright.
The success of Star Wars saw Prowse become a regular on the fan circuit and he attended conventions around the world for almost 40 years.
Yet his relationship with Lucas was not always harmonious and he was banned from attending official Star Wars events in 2010.
In the 2015 documentary I Am Your Father, Prowse claimed he was falsely blamed for leaking plot details and blackballed as a result.