James Earl Jones – one of the most distinctive voices in the history of film – appears to have made steps to step back from voicing the Star Wars character, Darth Vader, after nearly 40 years in the role.
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.