Acclaimed performer James Earl Jones is stepping back from his iconic role as Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. Jones, a performer whose voice credits include Mustafa in The Lion King (2019), Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s Jack and the Beanstalk, and various roles in The Simpsons, has reportedly signed over his voice as the iconic cyborg to artificial intelligence technology, per Vanity Fair.
At age 91, Jones has been playing the role of Darth Vader for roughly forty years of his life. As reported by Vanity Fair, programmers have trained an A.I. to replicate Jones’s voice and worked with editors to stitch together a final product. Matthew Wood, a supervising sound editor at Lucasfilm, spoke to Vanity Fair on the shift, saying that Jones “mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character.” In response to the change, Wood’s following thoughts were, “So how do we move forward?”
Jones received two Emmy Awards in 1991 for his distinct turns in TNT’s Heatwave and ABC’s Gabriel’s Fire. In 1997, he won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word for Great American Documents; in 2012, he won an honorary Academy Award for his illustrious career. He has won three Tony Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Thus, Jones is one of few performers who has received all four awards, making him an EGOT recipient.
Jones has played Darth Vader in approximately 11 projects within the Star Wars franchise. His latest project was Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi which starred Emmy Award winner Ewan McGregor (Halston), Emmy Award nominee Moses Ingram (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Vivien Lyra Blair (Waco), and Hayden Christensen (Little Italy).
Neither Disney nor Lucasfilm have commented on when Jones will officially cease his voice work as Darth Vader.