Michael Culver, ‘Star Wars’ Actor and Victim of Darth Vader, Dies at 85

Michael Culver, the British actor best known for one of the memorable death scenes in the “Star Wars” franchise, died on February 27. He was 85.

His death was confirmed by Alliance Agents, which posted a statement to social media on Tuesday, and his agent, Thomas Bowington. The agency did not give a cause of death, though Mr. Bowington said Mr. Culver had had cancer for several years.

Mr. Culver had a long acting career onscreen and stage that spanned over 50 years and included roles in “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” on TV and the 1984 film “A Passage to India.”

But his most lasting impact on popular culture came in 1980, with his brief role as Captain Needa in the second “Star Wars” film, “The Empire Strikes Back.” Needa, after losing track of Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, apologizes to Darth Vader, who promptly chokes him to death telepathically.

“Apology accepted, Captain Needa,” Vader says, walking around the captain’s body and motioning for others to take him away.

Mr. Culver also appeared in two James Bond films with the actor Sean Connery, “From Russia With Love” and “Thunderball.”

Michael John Edward Culver was born on June 16, 1938, in London to Daphne Rye, a theater casting director, and Ronald Culver, an actor, according to Mr. Bowington.

Mr. Culver performed in several Shakespeare plays and worked regularly with the British director Anthony Page, his agent said.

Mr. Culver is survived by his second wife, Amanda Ward Culver, and his children, Roderic, Sue and Justin Culver.

His son, Roderic Culver, also became an actor, Mr. Bowington said.

Later in his life, Mr. Culver mostly gave up acting to focus on politics and would have likely pursued a political career had he not been an actor, Mr. Bowington said.

He still regularly visited Star Wars fan events, notably one in Chicago in 2019, when “he was lost for words” when he saw nearly 200 people waiting in line to see him, his agency said in its statement.

In a 2023 interview on the “Making Tracks” podcast, he recalled that he “knew nothing about” the movie before auditioning, and marveled that its extraordinary appeal meant he was still asked about it well into his 80s.

“When I did ‘Star Wars,’ it just seemed to be, ‘Oh, they’re doing a movie about starships.’ So I did it. I just thought, ‘Well, I hope it’s successful,’” he said, adding: “You don’t expect 40 years later to be still signing autographs for it.”

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