James Earl Jones, the voice behind Darth Vader in the Star Wars series, has decided to sign over the rights to his voice to  Lucasfilm, an American film and television production company.

Jones, now 91, has been voicing this role for the last 40 years since the first movie in the series was released back in 1977. By selling off the voice rights, he is officially signing off from the role, as per reports. 

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The buyer of the rights, Lucasfilm, is the original producer of the Star Wars franchise. They were acquired by Walt Disney for $4.05 billion in 2021. With the voice rights secured, the company will be able to use AI technology to recreate Jone’s voice in the upcoming Star Wars films. 

Since acquiring Lucasfilms, Disney has used AI technology to recreate the voices of many memorable Star Wars characters. Most recently, in Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett, archival footage was used with AI algorithms to recreate the voice of young Luke Skywalker. 

Matthew Wood, a long-time veteran at Lucasfilms, said that Jones was keen to keep the character alive even after his death. At 91, he tried to have conversations on how the arc of the character can be completed before his death. 

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“He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” Wood told Vanity Fair, asking, “so how do we move forward?” Turns out, technology found an answer to the question. 

Jones made his acting debut as Darth Vader in the first installment of the Star Wars series. Although he was not cast in the subsequent releases, he continued to be the voice of the legendary villain. 

Apart from Darth Vader, Jones has voiced several iconic characters, including Mufasa in Disney’s epic The Lion King, starting in 1994 till the 2019 computer-animated remake.