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James Earl Jones Retires as Darth Vader, AI Takes Over

Darth Vader standing against a grey and black background.
Stefano Buttafoco/Shutterstock.com

James Earl Jones has retired from voicing iconic Star Wars villain Darth Vader. Jones has portrayed Vader’s voice since 1977. Now, at 91 years old, the actor has indicated that he wants to step back from the role.

Obi-wan Kenobi’s line describing Vader in Return of the Jedi, “He’s more machine now than man,” takes on a more prescient meaning in 2022. That’s because Jones has signed over his voice to Ukrainian AI company Respeecher. The start-up specializes in using archival recordings and AI algorithms to create new, original dialogue with the same voice.

Jones’s first Respeecher rendition has already made it to the big screen. In the first season of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Vader’s appearances by Hayden Christensen were partially voiced using Respeecher’s AI technology.

This isn’t the first time that Star Wars has employed advanced algorithms to keep aging actors in their iconic roles. In the 2016 film Rogue One, Lucasfilm used CGI to resurrect Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin and portray Carrie Fisher’s 1977 version of Princess Leia. And in 2020, the company brought back the 1983 version of Luke Skywalker to The Mandalorian using so-called deepfake technology.

After Vader’s appearance in Obi-Wan Kenobi, many fans expect the character to return in the upcoming Ahsoka series. Ahsoka follows the further adventures of Vader’s former Jedi padawan Ahsoka Tano as seen in the Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars.

Source: Vanity Fair

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »