THE man behind the Darth Vader mask, Dave Prowse, has died aged 85. 

Dave portrayed the Star Wars character in the original trilogy films from 1977.

His agent, Thomas Bowington, confirmed the sad news earlier this morning in a Facebook post.

Thomas wrote: "It's with great sadness that we have to announce that our client Dave Prowse M.B.E. passed away yesterday morning at the age of 85."

The weightlifter-turned-actor from Bristol - who also earned an MBE for playing the Green Cross Code Man in promoting road safety - died after a short illness, his agent Thomas Bowington said in a Facebook post.

Prowse won the role playing Vader due to his impressive 6ft 6in physique, but with his West Country accent deemed not quite suitable, the part was instead voiced by James Earl Jones.

"May the force be with him, always!" Bowington said in a statement.

Actor Daniel Logan, who played Boba Fett in Star Wars: Episode II Attack Of The Clones, posted a picture to Twitter with Dave Prowse, writing: "Sad to hear of the passing of a #StarWars family member. RIP Dave Prowse.

"Darth Vader wouldn't be the same without you in the costume. We had many fun times & laughs at cons together over the years.

"Glad to have been able to call you a friend. Rest now and be one with the Force!"

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."

American actor Carl Weathers, who played Apollo Creed in the Rocky films and appears in Disney Plus Star Wars series The Mandalorian, paid tribute on Twitter: "RIP David Prowse. That stature contributed so much to Darth Vader's legend. #BePeace."