James Earl Jones Officially Retires as the Voice of Darth Vader

In 1977, James Earl Jones began voicing Darth Vader in George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, and his instantly-recognizable baritone helped the Dark Lord of the Sith become one of the most celebrated villains in the history of popular culture. Jones was recently credited for reprising his role as Vader in Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series earlier this year. But as fans later learned, he never actually set foot in a recording booth. Instead, a Ukrainian-based startup called Respeecher used AI technology and archival recordings to re-create the actor’s dulcet tones. And this will likely be Lucasfilm’s strategy going forward if they decide to revisit his character in future installments.

A new Vanity Fair piece confirms that after 45 years, Jones has officially “stepped back” from bringing Vader to life. Fortunately, he’s already given Respeecher his blessing to clone his voice for new films and TV shows. After being presented with the company’s work, Jones “signed off” on letting them record new dialogue using his likeness. This effectively guarantees that his familiar cadence will live on for decades to come.

Obi-Wan wasn’t the first time that Lucasfilm enlisted Respeecher’s services for one of their Star Wars projects. The company also helped re-create Mark Hamill’s younger voice for Luke Skywalker’s scenes in The Book of Boba Fett (the story doesn’t say whether they handled his previous appearance in The Mandalorian season 2). What’s even more impressive is that they continued to work on Obi-Wan while Russian armed forces were invading their country.

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Jones provided Vader’s voice in all three films in Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy, later returning for Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith in 2005. Once Disney took over the franchise, he also came back for Rogue One in 2016. But it sounds like his retirement from the role has been years in the making. In 2019, after recording a brief vocal cameo for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, he reportedly told Lucasfilm sound editor Matthew Wood that he was “looking to wind down” his time as the character.

Although it certainly marks the end of an era, this news isn’t all that surprising. At 91, Jones finally seems like he’s pumping the breaks on his acting career. In fact, most of the jobs he’s taken on over the last few years have been voicover roles, including a six-episode stint as Vader in Star Wars: Rebels and a second go-round as Mufasa in Disney’s 2019 Lion King remake. Regardless, he still agreed to reprise his role as King Jaffe in Coming 2 America, which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2021.

Are you sad to hear that Jones is stepping away from the role of Darth Vader? Let us know in the comment section below!

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