James Earl Jones is reportedly stepping back from voicing “Star Wars”‘ Darth Vader.
After playing the iconic villain for over 40 years, the 91-year-old actor gave permission to Lucasfilm and its parent company- Disney- to recreate his voice digitally.
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 villain’s suit, helmet and cape, he has given the franchise iconic lines, like in the sequel when he revealed “I am your father” to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
In order to create new dialogue using past performances, Respeecher uses archival recordings and an A.I. According to Matthew Wood of Sound effect company, Skywalker Sound, Jones has been recorded “dozens of times.”
“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.