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A celebration of the OTHER voices of Darth Vader

A celebration of the OTHER voices of Darth Vader

James Earl Jones is riding off into the sunset, but he wasn't the only voice of Darth Vader. Today, I look at a few of his other voices.

OzzieMejia

Earlier this week, pop culture experienced the end of an era. James Earl Jones, after a long and illustrious career, appears to have breathed his last breath as the iconic Darth Vader. Jones looks to be sunsetting his time as the iconic villain and hanging up the helmet. But will he be passing the mantle on to... himself?

Yeah, so here's what's probably happening. Remember how James Earl Jones popped up on the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series, still sounding pretty good for a 91-year-old? There's a reason for that. As noted in this Vanity Fair article, Ukranian synthetic-speech artist Bogdan Belyaev has been working with Disney to de-age the voices of classic actors through Belyaev's Respeecher company. You've also seen Respeecher's work with Mark Hamill's de-aged Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Well, Jones loved the company's work so much, he decided to sign off on keeping his voice alive.

What Respeecher could do better than anyone was re-create the unforgettably menacing way that Jones, now 91, sounded half a lifetime ago. Wood estimates that he’s recorded the actor at least a dozen times over the decades, the last time being a brief line of dialogue in 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker. “He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” says Wood. “So how do we move forward?” 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. Jones is credited for guiding the performance on Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Wood 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.

It's entirely possible that Jones giving his blessing will pave the way for Vader's voice to live on well into the actor's retirement and eventual passing. Is that really necessary, though? We've seen some pretty good Vaders come along. In fact, for this Cortex post, let's appreciate a few of the Vader imitators who have come along over the years, mostly in the world of TV and video games.

Matt Sloan

As someone who's played a lot of video games and makes a living out of them, I've come to greatly appreciate Matt Sloan's depiction of Vader. In fact, I still remember his performance in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, where he mentored and eventually betrayed Starkiller.

Sloan has also popped up a lot on TV and has become the voice of LEGO Darth Vader across the various LEGO TV specials.

Scott Lawrence

Scott Lawrence has picked up the mantle of Vader a few times, too. VR users will recognize his voice from Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. However, he's also been one of the go-to guys at Electronic Arts, who has used his Vader in two of their main Star Wars titles: Star Wars Squadrons and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

For those who haven't played Fallen Order, Vader is a frightening man. If you've played it, you know. If you haven't, spoilers below.

He brings such a fearful gravitas to his voice, Lawrence could have been an ideal "life after James Earl Jones" voice for Vader.

Abraham Benrubi

Alright, I want to end this on a less serious route. If this is an appreciation of other Vader voice actors, I also want to dive into parody and spotlight Abraham Benrubi, who voiced a less serious Vader across several shows, most notably in Robot Chicken.

Whether it's trying to shoot Jar Jar out of an airlock or just chatting with Luke about the various Star Wars reveals that sound really silly on paper, I loved Benrubi's turn as Vader. He's someone who shouldn't be lost in the shuffle as great voices for the character.


I'm sure I missed a few Vaders, so feel free to toss any in the comments. Let me know who your favorite non-James Earl Jones Vader was.

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