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Michael Culver, ‘Star Wars’ Actor Known for Crucial Death by Darth Vader, Dies at 85

Michael Culver, veteran British actor who played one of Darth Vader’s most infamous victims in “The Empire Strikes Back,” has died at the age of 85, according to media reports.

In the famed 1980 “Star Wars” sequel, Culver played Captain Needa, an Imperial officer who pursues Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon as the Rebel Alliance escapes from their secret base on Hoth.

When the Falcon escapes his clutches, Needa accepts full responsibility and goes to apologize to Darth Vader, only to be choked to death with Vader’s Sith powers. “Apology accepted, Captain Needa,” Vader says as the officer’s body is dragged away.

A London native who honed his acting skills with the Dundee Repertory Theatre troupe, Culver had dozens of roles in film, television and stage from 1961 to 2016. Along with “Empire Strikes Back,” Culver appeared as a racist police major in David Lean’s final film “A Passage to India” and in uncredited roles in the James Bond films “From Russia With Love” and “Thunderball.”

Before and after “Empire,” Culver also had roles on episodes of several British TV shows, including “The Sweeney” and “The Adventures of Black Beauty” in the 1970s and “Miss Marple” in the 1980s.

After his retirement in 2016, Culver appeared at various “Star Wars” fan events, signing autographs and discussing his small but famous role in “Empire Strikes Back.”

“We are very sad to confirm the passing of our friend and client Michael Culver,” said his agency, Alliance Agents, in a statement sent to Entertainment Weekly.

“It’s been an honour to have represented Michael for for the last decade and to have taken him to some of the best ‘Star Wars’ events in the U.K. and Europe,” the statement continued. “A real highlight was taking Michael to Celebration in Chicago in 2019. He was lost for words when he saw his queue line with nearly 200 people waiting to see him.”

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