Darth Vader’s Iconic Voice Actor Is Stepping Down From Star Wars

By Richard Nebens Updated:
Darth Vader Star Wars James Earl Jones

Since Star Wars first became a part of pop culture in 1977, James Earl Jones helped push the phenomenon to incredible heights thanks to his portrayal of the Sith Lord, Darth Vader. Although that character has gone through various adaptations and actors over the last 40 years, Jones' voice is the one content in bringing the cyborg antagonist to life on the big and small screen.

Vader was last seen in this year's Obi-Wan Kenobi, with a team of actors and stuntmen helping bring the villain back in his battle against Ewan McGregor's hero. While it allowed Hayden Christensen to return to his iconic role, earning a much better reception than his first go as Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader, James Earl Jones's voice was also used through the Respeecher technology that Lucasfilm has employed numerous times on Disney+.

With Jones approaching his 92nd birthday, fans are naturally wondering how long he will continue working in Hollywood, especially with his workload having decreased relatively substantially over the last few years. Now, a new report has revealed that this time for Jones may come sooner than most fans were expecting.

James Earl Jones Stepping Away from Vader

James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones

According to a new report from Vanity Fair, James Earl Jones has officially stepped away from performing the voice of Darth Vader for Lucasfilm's Star Wars franchise. He hasn't lent his voice talents to the franchise since before Obi-Wan Kenobi, which premiered on Disney+ in Summer 2022.

Sound editor Matthew Wood explained how had recorded Jones for Vader on at least a dozen occasions, with Jones telling him after 2019's The Rise of Skywalker that he was ready to move on from the role:

“He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character. So how do we move forward?”

Wood presented Jones with Respeecher's work that they had done with his voice, leading the actor to sign off on the team using his voice recordings to keep moving forward with Vader. Jones even offered his guidance on the performance in Obi-Wan Kenobi, with Wood calling him "a benevolent godfather" in the process.

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Gazette also spoke with Respeecher founder Alex Serdiu on the process behind Jones' Vader performance, confirming that the actor was replaced during production on Obi-Wan Kenobi:

“I can’t say yes or no on James Earl Jones. [There are] lots of secrets still with Obi-Wan Kenobi. But we were uploading data packets [for Obi-Wan Kenobi] to Skywalker Sound when the invasion [of Ukraine] began.”

Star Wars Icon Ends Brilliant Career as Vader

James Earl Jones helped to make Darth Vader one of the most iconic movie villains in history with his deep, booming voice that gave the Sith Lord an incredible presence in the original Star Wars story. He's also lent his talents to the franchise for the better part of four decades, but with his age certainly becoming a factor, it's not shocking to see him take a step back from the fan-favorite franchise.

This doesn't indicate how long Star Wars will continue using Vader, who most recently showed up in promotional material for the upcoming Star Wars: Andor series on Disney+. It also comes with Lucasfilm moving away from the Skywalker Saga story in the movies and on Disney+, meaning Vader may play a smaller role moving forward.

Regardless of what the future holds, Jones' legacy as Darth Vader is one of the most memorable matches between actor and role in film history, and there's no question that he's put considerable work into developing the character.

All of James Earl Jones' performances as Darth Vader are available to stream on Disney+.

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.