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See Rare Photos of James Earl Jones Amid His Retirement From the ‘Star Wars’ Franchise

For more than six decades, James Earl Jones has voiced iconic movie characters, captivated Broadway audiences and shown that there are no limits to what he can do. In September 2022, the EGOT winner retired from the Star Wars franchise after voicing Darth Vader for nearly 50 years. Prior to stepping back from the spotlight, James was photographed during a few rare public appearances. 

The Dr. Strangelove actor made his debut voicing Luke Skywalker’s father in the first installment of the Star Wars franchise in 1977. The George Lucas-directed phenomenon was a hit at the box office and gave the film veteran another notch on his already prolific resume of roles. James previously revealed that he overcame a stutter as a child before he shot to fame with his instantly recognizable voice.  

“I am really not conscious that there is anything distinctive about it. I just try to make words and communicate,” the Coming to America actor told the Hartford Courant in June 2014. “I really didn’t have a voice growing up. I had a terrible stutter so I would be too embarrassed to talk. I really didn’t talk much until I got to high school thanks to a teacher, Donald Crouch. He was a teacher of Latin and English and political science.”

James returned to reprise his role in the successful Star Wars sequels, the television series Star Wars: Rebels and the 2016 spinoff film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Following the release of the Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries on Disney+ in May 2022, James gave filmmakers the green light to use synthetic speech technology and AI to recreate his voice in future films, per Variety

“He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” Matthew Wood, a Lucasfilm sound editor, told the outlet in September 2022. “So how do we move forward?”

Although James will no longer be stepping behind the microphone to voice the iconic role, he has contributed so much to the franchise and beyond. Just weeks ahead of the announcement of the Field of Dreams star’s retirement from Star Wars, he received a prestigious honor. Broadway’s Court Theatre was officially renamed the James Earl Jones Theatre. The Broadway legend did not attend the ceremony. Instead, he was given a private tour of the space with his family just days ahead of the big day. 

Keep scrolling to see rare photos of James before he retired from Star Wars