By Melissa Romualdi.

James Earl Jones is reportedly stepping back from voicing “Star Wars” villain Darth Vader.

After playing the iconic character for more than 40 years, the 91-year-old actor gave permission to Lucasfilm and parent company Disney to recreate his voice digitally.

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For years, Lucasfilm has been working with Ukrainian start-up, Respeecher — a voice-cloning software company — to generate Jones’ original voice from 45 years ago, Vanity Fair revealed. As Jones continues to age, his memorable voice continues to alter, ultimately resulting in his decision to retire the role.

Since 1977, when the first “Star Wars” film (later subtitled “A New Hope”) was released, Jones has voiced Darth Vader. Though he’s never put on the Vader’s suit, helmet and cape, he has given the franchise such iconic lines as “I am your father,” which he famously revealed to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in “The Empire Strikes Back”.

In order to create new dialogue using past performances, Respeecher uses archival recordings and an AI. According to Matthew Wood of Sound effect company, Skywalker Sound, Jones has been recorded “dozens of times.”

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“He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” Wood told Vanity Fair. “So how do we move forward?”

Despite Jones signing off on the company’s technology, the actor remains “a benevolent godfather,” as Wood described, who continues to inspire “Star Wars” performances like the new Disney+ series “Obi-Wan Kenobi”. The limited series saw Jones return to voice Darth Vader for episode 3.


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Ellen Bullock