James Earl Jones is calling it a day voicing Star Wars‘ Darth Vader and announced he’s officially signed his voice rights over to Lucasfilm who will continue his legacy.
Impressive. Most impressive.
For 45 years, Jones has been responsible for delivering quite possibly the most recognised voice in all of Hollywood history. And I bet you read that subtitle hearing Vader’s voice!
His voice work, combined with David Prowse’s intimidating 6’4” physical presence, gave us Darth Vader who is regularly voted the silver screens most recognisable and number one villain of all time.
Jones is now 91 years old and, like John Williams, has decided that the time is finally right to pass the Star Wars torch to a younger generation.
Don’t Be Too Proud Of This Technological Terror You’ve Constructed
Lucasfilm and a Ukranian company called Respeecher will now be using archival recordings of Jones’ performances. Using an A.I. program they can create new dialogue with the voices of performers who have either aged out of their roles or have passed away.
This method was recently used to recreate the voice of a young Luke Skywalker for The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. This same tech was also used for Vader’s voice in Obi-Wan Kenobi.
There are an abundance of new Star Wars shows coming to the small screen such as Ahsoka, Skeleton Crew, The Acolyte and Lando (seriously?) and there was even talk of a Darth Vader stand alone series too.
So with Darth Vader 100% guaranteed to be making many more appearances, over the coming years, it’s understandable 91 year old Jones doesn’t want to end up choking on his own aspirations.
I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing
George Lucas first hired Jones to dub over the voice of David Prowse during post-production for 1977’s Star Wars (again, it’s not called A New Hope). Prowse’s Bristol accent (very similar to Boba Phil’s but more accentuated) never matched Vader’s intimidating physicality so George Lucas hired Jones at a cost of just $7,000. Jones explains:
“George wanted, pardon the expression, a dark voice, so he hires a guy born in Mississippi, raised in Michigan, who stutters. And that’s the voice. That’s me.”
That £7K gig (that Jones said was good money at the time) turned James Earl Jones into a household name and has helped him accumulate a net worth of $40 million and most importantly, cinema immortality.
And even so Jones’ voice will live on via the terrifying horrors of A.I., the world will be eternally grateful for what he gave us and the endless (bad) impressions we all do of Darth Vader.
Rest up Mr Jones, you’ve earned it. And remember, when you first voiced Vader, A.I. was but the learner. Now it is the master.