James Earl Jones, 91, ‘winding down’ as voice of Darth Vader


James Earl Jones, seen here at the Tony Awards in 2016, reportedly gave his blessing to a company that generates synthesized speech based on archival recordings and A.I. technology. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

(NEXSTAR) – James Earl Jones is reportedly seeking something akin to an honorable discharge from the never-ending “Star Wars.”

The 91-year-old actor, who has voiced Darth Vader across multiple entries in the sci-fi franchise since 1977, has reportedly “signed off” on plans to replace Vader’s upcoming dialogue with a blend of archival recordings and AI technology after hearing how well the new tech could mimic his trademark voice, according to Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair briefly touched on Jones’ decision in an article published Friday, which focused on the Ukrainian start-up tasked by Lucasfilm with replicating the veteran actor’s voice for the Disney+ series “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

The article specifically noted that the Ukrainian company, called Respeecher, was hired to help out with the new dialogue “now that Jones’s voice has altered with age and he has stepped back from the role.”

Matthew Wood, a sound editor at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound studios, further told the outlet that Jones “had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character.” Not particularly surprising, considering he last voiced Vader in 2019’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Wood indicated, however, that Jones is still somewhat involved in the franchise, and lends advice to the editors on the character’s future appearances. He also described Jones as a “benevolent grandfather” when asked by Vanity Fair to outline the actor’s contribution to Vader’s most recent turns in “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

It’s unclear what plans Disney and Lucasfilm have for Darth Vader in upcoming projects, but if history is any indication, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. More than 45 years after his debut, the character has continued to appear in films, television series, animated programs and video games — all mediums which, seemingly, will soon need to rely on synthesized speech.

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