We are a couple of weeks away from Obi-Wan Kenobi debuting on Disney+ and while we know that the titular character will come face to face with his former student, now Sith Lord Darth Vader, we don’t know what that will entail. Oh, Hayden Christenson will be stepping into the role and sharing some screen time with Ewan McGregor, but what about the iconic voice of Darth Vader?
It’s unknown if James Earl Jones will come back for the new Star Wars series to lend his voice to the iconic villain in a galaxy far, far away. As it stands, Jones has voiced the character a whopping 11 times!
James Earl Jones in Star Wars
The film that start it all nearly 45 years ago. Star Wars has gone on to launch a massive fandom, become one of the biggest properties in pop culture, and has even taken on a religious-like following. However, in 1977 no one really knew that this film would hit the way it did. James Earl Jones was coming off of a Golden Globes nomination for 1974’s Claudine and wasn’t credited for his first go as Vader’s voice, saying in a 2008 interview:
"When Linda Blair did the girl in The Exorcist, they hired Mercedes McCambridge to do the voice of the devil coming out of her. And there was controversy as to whether Mercedes should get credit. I was one who thought no, she was just special effects. So when it came to Darth Vader, I said, no, I’m just special effects. But it became so identified that by the third one, I thought, OK I’ll let them put my name on it."
The Star Wars Holiday Special
In this often panned TV holiday special, Jones reprised his role (as did many of the original cast) as the voice of Darth Vader in the cartoon segment The Story of the Faithful Wookie. It was in this infamous cartoon that fan-favorite Boba Fett made his official debut.
Finishing out the Original Trilogy
James Earl Jones voiced the character two more times in the 1980s to finish out the Star Wars trilogy. It wasn’t until 1983’s Return of the Jedi that Jones would take a film credit for the iconic voice of the Sith Lord. And while this trilogy was numbered 4, 5, and 6—meaning George Lucas intended on more Star Wars stories, it wasn’t likely for Jones to return to the voice—which was true for about 14 years.
Monopoly Star Wars (video game)
For as many games as Darth Vader has appeared in, there’s only one that brought James Earl Jones on as the voice of the Jedi turned Sith. The game is pretty straightforward, as it closely resembles the original Monopoly. The key difference is that the game uses pieces and locales themed to the Star War franchise and, because it was a PC game, included animation and voice work.
Revenge of the Sith
The prequel trilogy was mainly about Vader’s prior life as the Jedi Anakin Skywalker. Spoilers, but Revenge of the Sith ends with Anakin barely alive—the film ends with him housed in the iconic Darth Vader costume and one of the last lines of the film is Vader screaming “Noooooo!”. Jones is uncredited in the role, and when asked about it back in 2008, he said “You’d have to ask Lucas about that. I don’t know.” I think we’ll count this as his sixth time voicing the character 😊.
Yes, you read that correctly. James Earl Jones cameos as the voice of Darth Vader in The Benchwarmers. It’s not a canonical appearance, but the voice is part of a gatekeeper system for Mel Carmichael, the crazy rich person that funds the titular baseball team.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continues
The revamped Disney Parks ride (found in Hollywood Studios, Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris) incorporates locations across the entire Skywalker Saga. In doing so, plenty of voices from the franchise make an appearance; many being reprised by the original actors. And when comes to something as iconic as Darth Vader’s voice, Disney certainly wasn’t going to skip out on James Earl Jones; the veteran actor made his eighth appearance as the Sith Lord with his work on this Disney attraction.
In 2014, Jones would lend his voice to the character once again for the much-beloved Rebels cartoon. He appeared in a handful of episodes, including the emotional Season 2 finale, Twilight of the Apprentice: Part 2 which saw Vader face off against his former padawan, Ahsoka. It’s an episode still talked about today, though it was the last time we saw Vader in the cartoon. Technically, counting each appearance in this show would put Jones’s Vader count at 15, but for the purposes of this article, we are counting each appearance on Rebels as a collective 1.
In what may be Darth Vader’s best on-screen appearance, at least in live-action, James Earl Jones returns to voice the character. While Vader isn’t in the Rogue One very much, he steals the scenes he does appear in; specifically, the end, where we see an angry Darth Vader full of energy.
The Rise of Skywalker
James Earl Jones’s final appearance, to date, was a brief voice cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. When Palpatine reveals to Kylo Ren that he’s been “every voice you’ve heard inside your head”, his voice shapeshifts to that of Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Darth Vader (Jones).
So there you have it—James Earl Jones has played Darth Vader 11 times (15 if you count each episode of Rebels he was in). Could that change with the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series? Let us know if you think Jones will reprise the role in the new Disney+ series or if you think someone else will take a stab at it!