James Earl Jones, who has voiced Darth Vader in ‘Star Wars’ movies for nearly 40 years, appears to be stepping away from the role.
According to Vanity Fairthe 91-year-old actor has agreed to archive voice recordings to be used by young filmmakers, who plan to use artificial intelligence synthetic speech technology to recreate Jones’ younger voice from his past films for future Lucasfilm projects.
“He had said he was looking to phase out this particular character,” Matthew Wood, a 32-year-old Lucasfilm veteran, told the outlet. “So how do we proceed?”
The company has enlisted the help of Respeecher, a Ukrainian startup that uses AI technology to create new conversations from revitalized old voice recordings. Respeecher’s relationship with Lucasfilm began with the Disney+ series “The Book of Boba Fett,” for which they mimicked the voice of young Luke Skywalker. The two also teamed up for the voice performance of Darth Vader in the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series, which debuted on Disney’s streamer this summer.
Bogdan Belyaev, the 29-year-old speech artist, was tasked with supplying the new footage to Lucasfilm, but disaster struck on February 24 when Russia invaded the country. As air-raid sirens blared through the city of Lviv, Belyaev rushed to finish the project and send his work back to Skywalker Sound in Northern California.
“If everything went bad, we would never have these conversions delivered to Skywalker Sound,” he says.
After the debut of ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’, Jones’ family informed Wood that they were pleased with the synthesis between the actor’s voice and Respeecher’s technical work. Jones is credited with “leading the execution” of Darth Vader in the Disney+ series, with Wood describing the actor as a “benevolent godfather”.
Jones first voiced the famous movie villain in the original 1977 “Star Wars” while David Prowse appeared on screen in the infamous black mask. Jones has voiced the character on both the big and small screen so far.