The legendary actor behind the Darth Vader mask in the original Star Wars trilogy has sadly died after a short illness, his agent has confirmed.

English star Dave Prowse was aged 85 when he passed away.

The actor portrayed Luke Skywalker's intimidating arch-enemy in the original trilogy - along with US actor James Earl Jones who provided Vader's voice.

David Prowse as Darth Vader in a scene from Star Wars in 1977.
David Prowse as Darth Vader in a scene from Star Wars in 1977.

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 about his passing in a statement this morning.

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"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.

David posing in his Darth Vader costume.
David posing in his Darth Vader costume.

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.

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.

Dave on the set of Star Wars with Alec Gunness.
Dave on the set of Star Wars with Alec Gunness.

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.

Tributes to the actor have flooded social media with many sharing stories about their encounters with the star.

Mark Walters, who runs film news website Big Fan Boy tweeted: "I worked with Dave many times, even hung out with him outside of cons. He was always an impressive presence, great stories, there was something so majestic about him. Rest In Peace, good sir."

Film director Edgar Wright paid tribute to Prowse, describing him as the man who "stopped a whole generation of kiddies from being mown down in the street".

He said: "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 street as the Green Cross Code man. Rest in Peace, Bristol's finest."