For 45 years, James Earl Jones has struck fear into the hearts of audiences around the globe using just his voice as Star Wars' villainous Darth Vader. Now, as the 91-year-old actor begins to step away from the role, he's ensuring that the nefarious Sith Lord will continue to instill terror in a galaxy far, far into the future.
The actor has allowed early Darth Vader archival recordings to be used to replicate his voice via artificial intelligence software so that the character will live on forever, Vanity Fair reported. Jones signed off on the decision after Skywalker Sound presented him with Ukrainian start-up Respeecher's work on the recent Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character," Obi-Wan Kenobi supervising sound editor Matthew Wood told the outlet. "So how do we move forward?"
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty for Tony Awards Productions; Shirlaine Forrest/Getty for adidas James Earl Jones and Darth Vader, the character he has voiced for 45 years
While Jones is credited as the voice of Vader (Hayden Christensen plays him on screen in Obi-Wan Kenobi), Wood likened his contribution to the series to that of a "benevolent grandfather" and said that Jones' family was very pleased with the result after hearing Respeecher's artificial recordings in the show. The company continues to work in close partnership with Jones and his team to make sure they stay true to his iconic alter ego.
The process of using A.I. to simulate Vader's voice, however, comes with its own set of challenges. As Wood noted, "For a character such as Darth Vader, who might have 50 lines on a show, I might have a back-and-forth of almost over 10,000 files."
Thankfully, he and his team have a lot of recorded material to fall back on. After all, Jones has voiced the antihero since Vader made his original film debut in 1977's Star Wars. He has returned to portray him for numerous film and television projects throughout the years, most recently Obi-Wan Kenobi, 2019's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Star Wars: Rebels.
For interviews with the casts of Andor, Ahsoka, The Mandalorian, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, make sure to check out EW's new Star Wars podcast, Dagobah Dispatch.