‘Star Wars’ to Use A.I. In Place of Original Cast Member

A fan-favorite cast member is retiring from his iconic role.

One of the most menacing parts of the Star Wars villain Darth Vader is his deep voice, thanks to his voice actor, James Earl Jones.

The 91-year-old actor has voiced Vader for almost half a century in many different projects, but recently, he decided to step back from the role.

The franchise has plans for the character to (hopefully) sound the same in the future, but instead of Jones doing all the work, the voice will be created with A.I.

Close-up of American actor James Earl Jones, headphones on his head, as he speaks in a microphone in a recording studio, Hollywood, California, July 10, 1991.<p>Edmund Eckstein/Getty Images</p>
Close-up of American actor James Earl Jones, headphones on his head, as he speaks in a microphone in a recording studio, Hollywood, California, July 10, 1991.

Edmund Eckstein/Getty Images

Matthew Wood, a sound editor working at Skywalker Sound in Northern California, explained how this came about in conversation with Vanity Fair, "[Jones] had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character. So how do we move forward?"

Wood explained that he showed Jones the work done by people like synthetic-speech artist Bogdan Belyaev, who works at the Ukrainian start-up Respeecher, and got his approval to use archival recordings combined with "a proprietary A.I. algorithm" to generate new conversations in future Star Wars projects.

Jones agreed, which is how Vader's lines in Obi-Wan Kenobi were created.

According to Wood, Jones guided the vocal performance on the show as "a benevolent godfather" of sorts.

All of this work was going on as Russia invaded Ukraine, leading Skywalker Sound to attempt to pull back a bit, concerned about Respeecher's safety. But as Wood said, Respeecher believed, “Let’s work, let’s work in the face of this adversity, let’s persevere.”

After Obi-Wan Kenobi was released, Vanity Fair reported that "Jones’s family told Wood how pleased they were with the result of all the work, a tribute to the actor that honors his many years giving voice to the galactic tyrant."

Jones and his family's approval certainly gives Skywalker Sound, Respeecher, and Lucasfilm the confidence that they can continue to include Vader in Star Wars projects through their innovative technology, but only time will tell.

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