Actor Dave Prowse - famous for his portrayal of Darth Vader in the Star Wars saga [Photo: Rex]

Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse has died following a short illness, his agent has confirmed. The Star Wars actor was aged 85 when he passed away. Dave portrayed Luke Skywalker's ominous nemesis in the original trilogy Star Wars films, although the character's voice was famously provided by US actor James Earl Jones.

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The Bristolian was reportedly nicknamed 'Darth Farmer' by his late Star Wars co-star Carrie Fisher, because of his strong West Country accent. He landed the role due to his imposing physique and his history as a weightlifter.

His agent Thomas Bowington confirmed the sad news in a statement this morning. "May the force be with him, always!" he wrote. "Though famous for playing many monsters - for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives." He described the much-loved actor's passing as "a truly and deeply heart-wrenching loss for us and millions of fans all over the world".

Prowse was a familiar face on UK television for decades, with roles in Doctor Who in 1972, The Two Ronnies, The Kenneth Williams Show and The Morecambe & Wise Show. In recent years he also starred in series Mission Backup Earth and Southern Troopers.

While one role that the British actor was most proud of, was playing the Green Cross Code Man - helping educate millions in the UK how to safely cross the street. The star described the role as the "best job I ever had" - and he was awarded an MBE for his work in promoting road safety in 2000.

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Before his own success in the film industry, Prowse was welcomed into Hollywood circles after training the late Christopher Reeve for his role as Superman. Prowse acted as the personal trainer for the spandex-wearing star - who passed away in 2004. In October 1963, Prowse tied-the-knot with Norma E. Scammell – who remained his wife until his death. The couple had three children together.