No one has a voice like James Earl Jones, and thanks to innovative technology, his unmistakable gift will now live forever — to terrorize the galaxy.
As reported by Vanity Fair, a Ukrainian company called Respeecher has used recordings of the actor’s voice to create a kind of Virtual Vader.
Northern California’s Skywalker Sound generally handles audio duties for the Star Wars franchise, and supervising sound editor (as well as 32-year Lucasfilm veteran) Matthew Wood says he’s recorded legendary actor James at least a half-dozen times across multiple decades.
Most recently, he tracked Mr. Jones for 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker. According to Matthew, James told him retirement loomed:
“He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character. So how do we move forward?”
How, indeed — Vader’s voice is one of the most recognizable in all of cinema. A half-accurate imitation would never suffice.
Fortunately, where breathing life into computerized speech is concerned, Respeecher does incomparable work:
[Matthew] says that they hired Respeecher because the vocal performances that the start-up generates have an often elusive human touch.
Lucasfilm previously hired the company to generate new dialogue in the voice of a young Luke Skywalker for the Disney+ streaming service’s The Book of Boba Fett.
For the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series — in which Ewan McGregor reprises his role from the films — Darth’s 45-year-old sonic signature needed to be revived. Per Vanity Fair, Respeecher employed “archival recordings and a proprietary A.I. algorithm to create new dialogue.”
And the process is set for perpetuity. James is 91-years old; his voice has changed over the years. But a recent agreement will shower the Dark Lord with an indefinite fountain of youth:
When he ultimately presented Jones with Respeecher’s work, the actor signed off on using his archival voice recordings to keep Vader alive and vital even by artificial means — appropriate, perhaps, for a character who is half mechanical. [James] is credited for guiding the performance on Obi-Wan Kenobi, and [Matthew] describes his contribution as “a benevolent godfather.” They inform the actor about their plans for Vader and heed his advice on how to stay on the right course.
Will Disney-owned Lucasfilm use the terrific technology to create content worthy of the Star Wars name — the one made by George Lucas via the original trilogy? As this year’s May 25th debut of the Obi-Wan series approached, RedState writers were crossing their fingers.
On March 9th, front-pager Scott Hounsel offered the following:
To say that I am a bit of a Star Wars geek would be an understatement. … When it was announced Disney was going to be producing a new series with Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi returning, I remained cautiously optimistic that they would handle the series properly. When it was announced that John Williams was going to be returning to do the music, it felt like they were treating this more like a cinematic event than a limited-run television show. Later, it was announced that Hayden Christensen would be reprising his role as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, geeks across Star-Wars-dom became ridiculously excited.
Roughly two months later, Deputy Managing Editor Brandon Morse called Obi-Wan Kenobi “the franchise’s last shot.” It looked “good,” he said, “from the trailers.”
On June 14th, Brandon banged his gavel — see “Why Disney’s ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Is Abject Garbage and Star Wars at Its Worst.”
Then things got spicy as our colleague Jeff Charles countered. From “Brandon Morse Is Dead Wrong About the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Series“:
Sure, the show has its flaws – just as any show does. But Obi-Wan Kenobi is certainly worth watching. Hopefully, Morse lets me finish the series before Force-choking me to death for writing this article.
The saga continues. Have you seen the show? What do you think? Has Disney brought back the magic of the originals? Can it?
Either way, at least we’ll have the magic of James Earl Jones’s voice — from a long time ago.
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