George Lucas needed a man with a massive stature to embrace the physicality of Sith lord Darth Vader for Star Wars back in 1977, finding that physique with bodybuilder David Prowse. In the 40 years since filming, Prowse has regularly attended conventions across the world, meeting thousands of fans, an experience that will come to an end in December.
The initial announcement about his retirement from public events came from Prowse's Facebook account, with a more elaborate statement being issued by his agents, Alliance Agents, according to Jedi News.
The agency's announcement is as follows:
"As posted on his official Facebook page, Sadly due to his health, Dave Prowse will be retiring at the end of the year. His family have asked that there are no further convention bookings made.
Dave will be working remaining bookings that are easy to get to and do not require an overnight stay, however there are likely to be a number of cancellations.
These are the wishes of Dave's family, so please can people remain respectful of this and understand when these cancellations have to be made.
Dave's health and well being must now take priority.
For the time being Dave will continue to take part in private signings at home."
Devout Star Wars fans might be familiar with Prowse, but the actor's face never actually appears in the film. After filming all of his scenes in Star Wars, Lucas tapped James Earl Jones to voice Vader, hoping to achieve a more sinister timbre. Prowse notably had a more innocent accent, which the filmmaker didn't believe conveyed Vader's villainy.
When the time came for Vader to be unmasked in Return of the Jedi, Prowse reportedly was distracted from the fact that Sebastian Shaw had been cast to play the villain in his final moments.
In the years since portraying Vader, Prowse reportedly had a falling out with the folks at Lucasfilm, supposedly leading to him being banned from any official events sanctioned by the studio. However, there were still plenty of opportunities for the actor to interact with fans and sign collectibles.