The 91-year old actor has voiced Darth Vader since 1977, providing the menacing tone to the imposing, black clad figure in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and as recent as Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. But according to a new report, Jones had been looking to wind down his depiction of the character.
But where does this leave Darth Vader and his familiar voice for future Star Wars projects? Read on for the full details.
In a report by Vanity Fair, James Earl Jones has signed off on using his archival voice recordings for future use in the Star Wars franchise.
Since James Earl Jones stepped back from voicing Darth Vader, Ukrainian programmers—as the war raged outside—trained an A.I. to replicate it for 'Obi-Wan Kenobi.' https://t.co/PLrvuEl3Hm
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) September 24, 2022
The technology has come to a point that actors’ distinctive voices can now be convincingly recreated. James Earl Jones and his booming baritone is certainly one of the most memorable voices that has graced the silver screen. Although the veteran thespian has played many other roles in film, theater, and television, his unmistakable voice will be most associated with the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader.
Interestingly, Jones was not even properly credited in the first Star Wars movie and in its sequel, Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1981). It was only in Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) that the actor received proper credit as the voice of Darth Vader. And this was because Jones refused to be credited, feeling he was only providing the equivalent of a sound effect, while actor David Prowse was the Darth Vader that appeared on the screen.
Jones' reasoning for this is that he did not feel it would be proper for him to receive credit as his voice work for Darth Vader took no more than a day or two. The actor even went as far as denying that he was the voice of the Sith Lord, even to his friends.
James Earl Jones did not only voice Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. He also voiced the former Anakin Skywalker in The Star Wars Holiday Special, various games, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (as Anakin first dons the armor), and in Star Wars: Rebels animated series. He also returned for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
However, Darth Vader’s voice in the most recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney Plus is technically no longer his own. While Jones is credited for the episodes Darth Vader appeared in, the dialogue was actually the result of using A.I. technology. The Ukrainian startup company Respeecher provided the technology and recordings. This was also the company responsible for the voice dialogue based on Mark Hamill's archived recordings for Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in the episodes of The Book of Boba Fett.
As a side note, the invasion of Russia created a potential problem with delivering the recordings for the Obi-Wan Kenobi appearances of Darth Vader. Respeecher’s Bogdan Velyaev who was responsible for delivering the recordings stateside put it this way:
If everything went bad, we would never make these conversions delivered to Skywalker Sound.
Fortunately, the recordings were delivered and the results were commendable. The family of James Earl Jones was pleased with the final product in emulating the voice and speech delivery of the legendary actor. But according to Lucasfilm veteran Matthew Wood, it was Jones’s guidance and performance that made it possible.
Episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are currently streaming on Disney+.