James Earl Jones Says He Was Only Paid $7k To Voice Darth Vader

James Earl Jones’ voice spawns instant nostalgia for generations of movie-goers. But if you’re one of the millions of Star Wars fans worldwide, you know him best as the voice of intergalactic tyranny, Darth Vader.

In Celebration of the unofficial “Star Wars Day,” May 4, a date derived from the term “May the 4th be with you” which is a play on the Jedi salutation “May the force be with you,” The Hollywood Reporter gathered bytes from interviews through the years where Jones detailed his involvement in the staple of Pop Culture and Science Fiction. 

In a 2009 interview with AFI, Jones revealed that he was a secondary casting in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope after the actor who actually wore the iconic Darth Vader suit, the late David Prowse, was deemed to not have quite the powerful voice that writer and director George Lucas envisioned for the role.

Luckily for Lucas, in stepped one of the most recognizeable and commanding voices in entertainment. 

“George wanted, pardon the expression, a dark voice,” Jones revealed. “So he hires a guy born in Mississippi, raised in Michigan, who stutters. And that’s the voice. That’s me.”

James Earl Jones & Darth Vader during Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Charity Premiere – New York at Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Jones considered himself extremely fortunate, though by today’s standards, the job that defined one of the most impactful movie villains of the 20th century actually paid next to nothing. 

“I lucked out, from all these so-called handicaps, for a job that paid $7,000! And I thought that was good money. And I got to be a voice on a movie.”

Once his signature sound became cemented as the new voice of villainy, Lucas let him know that his vocal performance would have to remain consistent. 

“He said, ‘We don’t know what we did right, so let’s just try what we did.’” Jones said of Lucas’ resistance to him taking a new direction in his voice acting for the film’s sequel. “Naturally, I wanted to make Darth Vader more interesting, more subtle, more psychologically oriented. [But] he said, ‘No, no. What we’re finding out is you need to keep his voice on a very narrow band of inflection because he ain’t human, really.’”

Now 91, Jones voice, whether it was behind the Disney hero of our childhoods or the sci-fi villain known around the world, has defined strength power – whether used for good or evil – for multiple generations. 


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