James Earl Jones was Darth Vader from the original Star Wars until 1977. And while the character has been canonically dead since 1983, Jones has consistently voiced the role for decades, including in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016 and mentioned in the new series Obi-Wan Kenobi. But all great things must come to an end, and Jones has confirmed he is retiring and will no longer play Darth Vader.
According to a recent message to Vanity Fair, Jones transferred the rights to his voice to the Ukrainian technology company Respeecher, which uses artificial intelligence algorithms and archival footage to create new dialogue from actors who have lost their voices or died. Jones is 91 years old, and his voice has changed a lot over the past few decades. We will remind that the technology that helped to revive the young Luke Skywalker in the series The Book of Boba Fett was also implemented for Vader in Kenobi, and the character was physically portrayed by Hayden Christensen (Anakin) and Dimitrius Bystrevsky (Vader’s suit).
During Jones’ 2019 recording for a brief vocal cameo in Star Wars: The rise of Skywalker actor told Lucasfilm sound engineer Matthew Wood that his time with the character is coming to an end.
“James mentioned that he was considering finishing the character,” Wood admitted. Wood eventually introduced Jones to Respeecher and the actor signed a voiceover deal. So while Obi-Wan Kenobi has Jones listed as Vader, his work is actually done by an AI program, even though the actor has been briefed on the show’s plans for his character.
Jones’ example is far from the only one where artificial intelligence is used to reproduce the voice of a famous actor. Recently, the company Sonatic helped restore actor Val Kilmer‘s voice for Top Gun: Maverick.