James Earl Jones, 91, is retiring after voicing the iconic role of Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies for almost 40 years. The talented and hardworking actor recently signed off on using archived recordings of his young voice to recreate the character in future productions of Lucasfilm projects through artificial intelligence synthetic speech technology, according to Variety. “He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” Matthew Wood, a Lucasfilm veteran of 32 years, told the outlet. “So how do we move forward?”
The company is getting the help of Respeecher, a Ukrainian startup that uses AI technology to craft new conversations from revitalized old voice recordings, the outlet further reported. Respeecher has been working with Lucasfilm since creating their Disney+ series The Book of Boba Fett, in which they recreated the voice of young Luke Skywalker. They also worked together on the voice of Darth Vader for the series Obi-Wan Kenobi, which debuted on Disney’s streamer this summer.
As James steps away from his most popular voice role to date, find out more about him and his acting history below.
James has spanned a career of six decades.
In addition to voicing Darth Vader since 1977, he has voiced many other impressive roles, including Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King in 1994 and its sequel, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. He has also worked as an actor in many films, television series, and theatre productions. Some of his notable include The Great White Hope, Malcolm X, The Greatest, Conan the Barbarian, Field of Dreams, Patriot Games, Long Ago and Far Away, Gabriel’s Fire, and Pros and Cons.
He had a stutter as a child.
He has previously said that poetry and acting helped him get over the stutter and go on to be one of the most legendary voice actors and actors in the industry. Before making it big as an actor, he was studying pre-med and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. His Broadway debut happened in 1957, when he performed in several Shakespeare plays.
James has received most of the biggest awards in the entertainment industry.
Throughout his successful career, he has won multiple Emmys and Tonys as well as a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Gammy award. He also received the Honorary Academy Award in 2011.
He was the first celebrity appearance on Sesame Street.
The appearance took place in 1969 and it led the way for many other celebrities to appear on the popular kids’ television show. He gave a slow, solemn recitation of the alphabet on the show. He paused between each letter and gave kids time to learn before going onto the next letter.
James reportedly declined to be credited for the first two Star Wars films.
Since he was only providing the voice for Darth Vader, he considered his role to be minor and part of special effects, so therefore, he declined to be credited, according to Force Material. He accepted credit by the third film, though, and many began to take note of his talent. Although a lot of Star Wars fans thought he was also in the Darth Vader suit during those first films, it was actually actor Dave Prowse.