James Earl Jones has been Darth Vader since the original Star Wars all the way back in 1977 nearly 40 years. While the man formerly known as Anakin Skywalker has been canonically dead since 1983, Jones has consistently reprised the role over the decades, including in 2016’s Rogue One and the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series. According to Vanity Fair, the 91-year-old actor has signed off on archival voice recordings being used by young filmmakers, who plan to utilize artificial intelligence synthetic speech technology to recreate Jones’ younger voice from his previous films for future Lucasfilm projects.

Following the debut of “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Jones’ family informed Wood that they were pleased with the result of the synthesis between the actor’s voice and Respeecher’s technical work. Jones is credited for “guiding the performance” of Darth Vader in the Disney+ series, with Wood describing the actor as a “benevolent godfather.”

James Earl Jones

While recording Jones in 2019 for a brief vocal cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the actor told Lucasfilm sound editor Matthew Wood that he knew his time with the character was coming to an end. “[James] had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” admitted Wood. Wood then presented Respeecher to Jones, and the actor then signed his rights off. So while Kenobi has Jones credited as Vader, it’s actually the AI program doing the work, though the actor was informed of the show’s plans for his character.

“If everything went bad, we would never make these conversions delivered to Skywalker Sound,” he says.

Jones deserves to retire from such an iconic role, but it’s a little weird to ensure that his performance lives on through AI technology. There’ve been other actors who voiced the character over the decades and did a fairly good job at it, such as Matt Sloan in the Force Unleashed games. AI art, there’s something ethically dicey about this, and that feeling will likely not go away as Disney uses it in other shows or films.

By Vikram

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