James Earl Jones’ voice is best known for one voice and one voice only — Darth Vader. He was also Mufasa in The Lion King, but the fame comes from being the voice behind one of the most menacing villains in cinematic history — without even donning the suit. The 91-year-old actor has decided to no longer record line for the character and the voice will be generated via AI in future projects.
Vanity Fair reported that Jones’ voice will exist through an AI program that can recreate his voice, so Vader can deliver new lines of dialogue and maintain that steady, bass-loaded voice that we have all come to love and fear. Jones’ last live-recording was for 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, and while his voice sounded convincing in the latest Disney+ series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was actually artificially manufactured by Ukrainian startup Respeecher, who was tasked with creating a version of Jones’ voice as it sounded in the original trilogy.
This isn’t the first time in recent history where AI was used to recreate voices. Top Gun: Maverick utilized this technology to help recreate the voice of Val Kilmer for a quick line in the film. Kilmer has been struggling with throat cancer since 2015 and was unable to speak his line, but AI technology gave us a perfect Iceman and Maverick moment by mimicking Kilmer’s voice through the process of analyzing voice snippets from his previous films.
The other actor behind the Vader mask, Hayden Christensen, reprised his role as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi and he said he isn’t ready to leave the role behind just yet. “The extent of this journey, I think, remains to be seen. But what a privilege to get to come back and do this, and to be a part of this project.” he said via Total Film.
Jones’ presence is just as impactful as Christensen’s, and his absence will be felt — but not heard.
We’re unsure just how much Darth Vader we’ll see in new projects, but if Obi-Wan Kenobi was any indication, we’re excited. Like Christensen said, the extent of Anakin is yet to be seen.
Photo via Jim Spellman