Legendary actor James Earl Jones is looking to retire from many of the projects that he has done over the years, and that includes Star Wars.
The voice actor recently signed over the voice rights to his Darth Vader character, which means Lucasfilm and Disney will be able to alter his voice digitally to recreate new scenes featuring the iconic Dark Lord of the Sith without Jones’ involvement.
James Earl Jones Retires From His Darth Vader ‘Star Wars’ Character
The news of Jones’ retirement was first announced by a Vanity Fair article that revealed he had signed over the rights to the Darth Vader voice to Lucasfilm and Respeecher. Respeecher is a Ukrainian company that uses an A.I. program and pre-recorded audio clips to create new dialogue to recreate the voices of characters when their voice actors have either aged or passed away.
This method was recently used to recreate the voice of a young Luke Skywalker in “The Book of Boba Fett,” although Mark Hamill is still alive and actively working. This technique was also used to enhance the voice of Darth Vader for his scenes in the Disney+ live-action series “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” as Jones is now 91 years old.
Jones began voicing Darth Vader for 1977’s “A New Hope” and reprised his role again for “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” He also voiced Darth Vader in various other Star Wars projects, including 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the animated series “Rebels.”
One sound editor at Lucasfilm, Matthew Wood, has worked with the company for 32 years and has recorded Jones’ voice multiple times throughout the decades. The last time they worked together was to record a few lines for 2019’s “The Rise of Skywalker,” which was the last Star Wars film to hit theaters and wrapped up the nine-episode Skywalker Saga.
After Wood showed Jones what Respeecher could do, Jones agreed to sign over the rights to his voice to keep the character of Darth Vader going for decades to come. “[James] had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” Wood revealed. “So how do we move forward?”
Although it’s possible that Disney could always recast the role of Darth Vader, the EGOT winner’s voice has become too synonymous with the character and now that he has signed over the rights to his voice, the character of Darth Vader can continue to delight – and terrify – audiences for many years to come.
Jones Only Made $7,000 To Voice Darth Vader In ‘Star Wars’
The New York Post recently shared a resurfaced clip from the American Film Institute, which shows Jones talking about how much “Star Wars” creator George Lucas decided to pay him for taking on the role of a lifetime, and it turns out, it was only $7,000 dollars.
Although Jones was the voice of Darth Vader, actor David Prowse wore the iconic Darth Vader suit in “A New Hope,” which was released just over 45 years ago on May 25, 1977. Unfortunately, Prowse passed away in 2020 at the age of 85. Although Prowse had already been cast to fill the suit, Lucas didn’t feel that his voice was the right fit for the part.
“George wanted, pardon the expression, a dark voice,” Jones explained. “So he hires a guy born in Mississippi, raised in Michigan, who stutters. And that’s the voice. That’s me.”
Although $7,000 dollars seems like a small sum, Jones was ecstatic at the time. “I lucked out, from all these so-called handicaps, for a job that paid $7,000! I thought that was good money,” Jones said. “And I got to be a voice on a movie!”
In its sequel, 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” Jones revealed that he and Lucas actually had a disagreement about how Darth Vader should sound. Jones wanted to make Vader’s voice sound more “subtle” and “more psychologically oriented” behind the mask, “but Lucas saw it differently.”
“He said, ‘We don’t know what we did right, so let’s just try what we did … What we’re finding out is you need to keep his voice on a very narrow band of inflection because he ain’t human, really,’” Jones recalled.
Although fans are sad to see James Earl Jones on the verge of retirement, they are relieved to see that the character of Darth Vader will live on in a galaxy far, far away.