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Star Wars actor Richard LeParmentier dies at 66

LONDON (Reuters) - Actor Richard LeParmentier, best known as the commander in "Star Wars" who Darth Vader nearly choked to death for his "lack of faith" in the Force, has died aged 66, his family said.

LeParmentier appeared in more than 50 films and TV shows but is remembered for playing Death Star commander Admiral Motti in the 1977 film "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" in which Darth Vader chokes him using the invisible "Force".

LeParmentier also appeared in "Octopussy", "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", and as a reporter in "Superman II" which starred British actress Sarah Douglas, his wife from 1981-1984, as the Kryptonian supervillain Ursa.

His family paid tribute to "a warm, genuine person with an unparalleled joie de vivre".

"He absolutely loved traveling the world and meeting his friends and fellow Star Wars fans - whose tributes have given us all the best lines in this message," Rhiannon, Stephanie, and Tyrone LeParmentier said in a statement.

"Every time we find someone's lack of faith disturbing, we'll think of him .. He has gone to the Stars, and he will be missed."

His ex-wife, Douglas, said she was saddened to hear the news of his death.

"It was a long long time ago but nevertheless I am sad to hear the news and feel for his family," she wrote on Twitter.

The actor was born in Pittsburgh but moved to Britain in 1974 where he was most recently working as a screenwriter, according to his biography on IMDb.

He was visiting relatives in Austin, Texas, at the time of his death. No cause was given for his death.

The actor, who appeared at some sci-fi conventions, was reported as saying of his most famous role: "I did the choking effect by flexing muscles in my neck. It set off a chain of events, that choking.

"I can't do it anymore because, oddly enough, I have had an operation on my neck and had some 21st century titanium joints put into it."

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)

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