How would you like to have the same gig for over four decades? That’s how long James Earl Jones has been voicing Darth Vader. But his tenure as one of the most memorable voice performances seems to be coming to an end.
In a new piece from Vanity Fair (in a bit caught by Deadline), Matthew Wood of Lucasfilm revealed that Jones, who’s 91, has signed over the rights to his voice to the company. Instead of summoning him to the recording booth now and then, they can simply use AI to replicate his distinctive baritone. Wood said he was “looking into winding down this particular character,” but that he “wished to keep Vader alive.” In other words, Jones is letting computers take over the job of a character who’s part computer himself.
Jones was already a celebrated actor by the time he did voicework on the original Star Wars (for a character embodied onscreen by David Prowse), though his esteem didn’t result in a hefty paycheck. He’s surely made a ton of money off it since, and he’s even used it on CB radio. He’s not the only actor who’s throwing in the towel for a role they’ve played since the late ‘70s: Jamie Lee Curtis is also done — for the second time — with playing Laurie Strode.