Star Wars: James Earl Jones to step back from Darth Vader role - but Ukrainian AI means his voice will live on
The actor behind the voice of Star Wars villain Darth Vader has signalled that he will be stepping away from the role - but has licensed the use of his voice for future productions.
James Earl Jones first voiced Darth Vader in the original 1977 Star Wars movie and went on to perform in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
However, Star Wars sound supervising editor Matthew Wood told Vanity Fair the 91-year-old actor "was looking into winding down this particular character".
Jones went on to voice the role in films including the first installment of the Star Wars anthology series, Rogue One, and the third installment of the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Future Disney and Lucasfilm projects will use artificial intelligence synthetic speech technology to recreate Jones' younger voice from his previous films.
Ukrainian-based voice cloning company Respeecher will use AI technology to craft new conversations from revitalised old voice recordings.
They previously remastered his voice from the original Star Wars films for the recent Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi, and some of his archival voice recordings were also used.
Wood said Jones's family had been very happy with the result, and he described Jones as "a benevolent godfather" for his advice on the performance of the role during production.
The Ukrainian startup also worked with Lucasfilm to create the voice of a young Luke Skywalker for Disney+ series, The Book of Boba Fett.
Wood said that the Kyiv-based team had been impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine but had pushed through in order to get the shows made.
Some of Jones's most famous lines from the much-loved Star Wars franchise include: "No, I am your father"; "You don't know the power of the dark side! I must obey my master" and "The force is strong with this one".
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While Jones voiced the role, late actor David Prowse appeared on-screen, wearing the iconic Darth Vader costume of a black mask, helmet, and floor-length cape.
A respected actor of stage and screen across a six-decade career, Jones also voiced Mufasa in Disney's the Lion King, and played King Jaffe Joffer in Coming To America alongside Eddie Murphy, reprising both roles in the remake and sequel respectively.