James Earl Jones, the iconic voice behind Star Wars villain Darth Vader, announced his retirement from his role as Vader’s voiceover on Saturday. The 91-year-old sold his voice rights to Lucasfilm, a subsidiary of Disney Pictures, to be used with new dialogues in the upcoming Star Wars movies.
Lucasfilms has previously recreated the voice of young Luke Skywalker in The Book of Boba Fett combining archival footage with AI algorithms. They plan to use Jone’s voice in a similar way.
Who is James Earl Jones?
James Earl Jones is an actor best known for his work as a voiceover artist for the character of Darth Vader in the Star Wars series. He has also voiced the character of Mufasa in the Disney series Lion King.
Jones was born on January 17, 1931, in Arkabutla, Mississippi. His father Robert Earl Jones was a professional boxer and actor associated with the Harlem Renaissance movement. His mother Ruth was a maid early in her life but became a teacher later.
His acting debut took place at the Ramsdell Theatre in Michigan where he began as a stage carpenter and soon started featuring in various Shakespeare adaptations. Jones debuted on Broadway in a 1957 play directed by Lloyd Richards, but it ran for only 21 shows.
His next role as Edward the butler in Dore Schary’s play Sunrise at Campobello came in 1958, and he left a permanent mark in theatre with his performances. His cinema debut came with Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.
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His first leading role came in 1970 when he played boxer Jack Johnson in The Great White Hope and won a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards. He did two more films, The Man (1972) and Claudine (1974), before featuring for the first time as the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope.
He continued to appear in several films and plays through the 1980s and the 1990s. In 1992, he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President George H. W. Bush. He won two Primetime Emmy awards for his performances in Gabriel’s Fire and Heat Wave in 1991.
In 2011, James Earl Jones was awarded an Honorary Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.