James Earl Jones has bid farewell to Darth Vader after 45 years of portraying one of the most iconic figures in cinematic history. The 91-year-old actor, who has been providing the voice of Darth Vader since “Star Wars: A New Hope” premiered in 1977, handed over the rights to his archived voice recordings earlier this year, allowing Vader’s dialogues to now to be produced by artificial intelligence. After being shown the work done by Ukrainian start-up Respeecher on the most recent Disney+ series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Skywalker Sound presented Jones with the choice, and Jones approved it.
Respeecher employs “archival recordings and a proprietary AI algorithm to construct fresh conversation using the voices of artists from a bygone era. According to Lucasfilm supervising sound editor Matthew Wood, the company also ensures that the results sound at par with the human voice. James Earl Jones acknowledged that the startup’s technological prowess in restoring his voice for Obi-Wan Kenobi left him amazed.
In the newly released miniseries “Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi,” actors Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen have reprised their roles as Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker, respectively. Although Christensen donned Vader’s famed costume in the series, Respeecher delivered his voice during his battles with his former mentor and the Sith Inquisitor Reva Sevander.
Wood claimed that James Earl Jones acted as a mentor for Respeecher, which mainly relied on recordings of his voice to train their AI program to mimic the terror in his voice that he had in 1977 when he originally played Darth Vader. They also used recordings from Jones’ more recent performances in the “Star Wars” movies “Rogue One” and “The Rise of Skywalker” to train their AI software to reproduce his voice but not as much as the first movie. This explains why Vader sounds a lot like he did in the previous films in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. The same algorithm was used to reproduce Mark Hamill’s youthful voice as Luke Skywalker in another Disney+ series, “The Book of Boba Fett.”