While James Earl Jones has been in the theater for over 50 years (he’s won two Tonys and earned the Kennedy Center Honors for his work), what may be his most memorable role in the public eye went uncredited for 20 years. When he did the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back – a move deemed necessary due to David Prowse’s accent – he requested that he be uncredited; when Return of the Jedi came around, basically everyone knew that Jones was responsible for the voice, and was credited for that film. By the 1997 re-release of the first two films, Jones was credited for the voice of Vader, too.
Four more facts about James Earl Jones after the jump!
- Despite his awe-inspiring voice, Jones was functionally mute for much of his childhood. A stutterer, it was not until high school when teacher Donald Crouch, seeing his skill for writing poems, made him recite a poem every day. From then on, the voice was born.
- James Earl Jones is the only man to win two Emmys in the same year – in 1991, for Best Actor in a Drama for his role in the ABC series Gabriel’s Fire, and for Best Supporting Actor in a TV Movie for Heat Wave.
- Jones has been in film since 1964, when he was in the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove.
- In 1969, Jones recorded test films (reciting the alphabet, &c.) for Sesame Street; these and other segments were shown to children to gauge their interest in the show, then in its first year. Here’s James Earl Jones counting up to 10.