Star Wars: James Earl Jones Preserves Darth Vader Voice To AI Tech
It's hard to argue anyone as synonymous with Star Wars and Darth Vader as James Earl Jones, providing the voice for the Sith Lord for almost 50 years, most recently in Lucasfilm and Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi. The 91-year-old actor is working with an AI technology called Respeecher that works with actors so they can modulate their voices to sound younger, possibly showing signs of retirement from the role. The tech was used most prominently in previous Disney+ Star Wars shows in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, working with actor Mark Hamill to more faithfully recreate his Luke Skywalker voice nearly 40 years ago.
How James Earl Jones is Preserving His Star Wars Legacy
Supervising sound editor and actor Matthew Wood spoke to Vanity Fair about how Jones "wished to keep Vader alive." Wood worked with Jones at least a dozen times over the decades, with the last time a brief line of dialogue in 2019's The Rise of Skywalker. "[Jones] had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character," he said. "So how do we move forward?" After Jones was shown Respeecher's work, he signed off on using his archival voice recordings while providing guidance to the character in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Wood described Jones' contribution as "a benevolent grandfather."
"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," Wood said. Jones, who's achieved EGOT status by winning all the major awards (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), voiced Vader throughout the Skywalker saga, including the original trilogy, 2005's Revenge of the Sith, the aforementioned Rise of Skywalker, and 2016's Rogue One. He also reprised the role in the Disney+ animated series Star Wars: Rebels. For more on Lucasfilms' work with the Ukrainian-based Respeecher amidst the country's ongoing struggle from the Russian invasion, you can check out the whole piece here.