Published 2022-09-30 - 8:13 am
Darth Vader from the Star Wars universe is arguably the most famous space villain in the world of cinema. Several actors and stuntmen (including the late David Prowse and Hayden Christensen) have portrayed the evil Lord Vader over the years, but the mighty voice behind the mask belongs to none other than James Earl Jones, also known from films like The Hunt for Red October and Coming to America. Jones has been working in the sound studio, voicing lines for Vader, ever since the first Star Wars films in the late 70s. But now it’s over!
No, I am your father!
The last time he voiced Vader was in 2019 in 2019 in Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker. Jones is now 91 years old, and reportedly feels ready to put away the studio work. He has therefore agreed to let Lucasfilm “clone” his voice so that it can be preserved and continue to be used in future Star Wars productions.
The Ukrainian company Respeecher has used AI technology to replicate and mimic Jones’ distinctive voice, in close collaboration with sound studio Skywalker Sound. After analysing the voice through thousands of audio files and voice recordings, it is now possible to create new lines without the actor being present in the recording studio! Which I guess technically makes him a digital Force Ghost…
The technique has already been used during the production of Obi-Wan Kenobi, where they have also reportedly modified the voice to better suit the younger Lord Vader, played by Hayden Christensen in the Disney series. Respeecher is also said to have done similar work for Lucasfilm on the voice of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) during the production of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, but not quite with the same good results as Vader in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
That James Earl Jones’ iconic voice can now be preserved and used for new film projects is obviously a positive. At the same time, the fact that it is now possible to replicate a person’s voice so reliably that you can “put words in their mouth” may seem a little disconcerting. We can imagine a number of embarrassing scenarios in the future, where prominent politicians and public figures could be accused of having said something that they themselves did not say at all. Or perhaps situations where digital voices can correct embarrassing statements made by real politicians…
Sources: The Verge, Vanity Fair