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James Earl Jones Signs Over Darth Vader's Voice Rights And Announces His Retirement From Star Wars

After 45 years as Darth Vader's legendary voice, James Earl Jones hands over the character's vocal rights, thereby retiring from the role.

After 45 years as a Star Wars actor, James Earl Jones is officially retiring from the franchise. Jones has given the vocal rights to his persona Darth Vader over to Lucasfilm and Respeecher, according to Vanity Fair.


The latter is a Ukrainian firm that combines archive recordings and artificial intelligence software to produce fresh conversations with the voices of actors who have either aged out of their roles or died. This process was recently utilized to replicate the voice of a young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for The Book of Boba Fett and to mimic Darth Vader's voice for his moments in Obi-Wan Kenobi, which Jones has since aged out of.

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Throughout his 32-year tenure at Lucasfilm, Matthew Wood, a sound editor, has recorded Jones' voice multiple times, the most recent being for The Rise of Skywalker. When Wood demonstrated the powers of Jones Respeecher, the actor consented to hand up the rights to his voice in order to keep Darth Vader alive. "[James] stated that he was thinking about shutting down this specific persona," Wood explained. "So, how do we proceed?"


Despite the fact that many studios recast voice actors when the original performer is no longer available, Jones' unique voice has become synonymous with Darth Vader. During post-production for 1977's A New Hope, George Lucas engaged Jones to dub over the voice of David Prowse, the man who played Darth Vader on site. Despite the fact that the work paid only $7,000 at the time, it helped Jones become a household celebrity. Since then, Jones has played the legendary villain in over a dozen Star Wars-related movies.

In recent years, there has been debate regarding the use of CGI and other digital methods to de-age and cast deceased performers. The technology was utilized to construct Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Princess Leia for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which received mixed reviews from moviegoers. A major cause of contention is that deceased performers, such as Tarkin's Peter Cushing, are unable to provide approval for studios to exploit their likenesses in their films. The fact that Jones has given Lucasfilm permission to utilize his characteristic baritone in future Star Wars films, including those made after his death, may assuage fans' fears. Jones has had a career lasting more than 60 years and is one of the few performers to have received the coveted EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). He recently reprised his roles as Mufasa in Jon Favreau's 2019 adaptation of The Lion King and as King Jaffe Joffer in Coming 2 America, in addition to Darth Vader.


Source: Vanity Fair

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