Image via Obi-Wan Kenobi
James Earl Jones has famously voiced the iconic, low, breathy, and ominous tones of Darth Vader. The cybernetically-enhanced Sith Lord is now being cybernetically enhanced in real life as the 91-year-old actor bids farewell to the character.
As a voice like Jones’ is practically irreplaceable, Disney found that the best option was to have an AI study the movies he had done and recreate it for future Star Wars projects. With the actor’s consent, Disney then set out to find a way to replicate his work.
Matthew Wood from Lucasfilm mentioned that Jones had helped guide the project for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series that premiered earlier this year. is working with a Ukrainian startup, Respeecher, to do the heavy lifting in teaching the AI how to imitate Jones’ iconic tones. Respeecher worked with Lucasfilm, who provided archival recordings of the actor, and used its “proprietary AI algorithm” to produce Darth Vader’s new voice.
Respeecher had contacted Bogdan Belyaev to provide the base voice of the fallen Jedi, after which his speech was enhanced to sound like Jones did. However, the project was almost compromised due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As such, if you’ve seen Darth Vader in any of the recent Star Wars shows, there is a high chance you might have been listening to an AI act.
Besides, Darth Vader is not even the first Star Wars character Respeecher has worked on. In 2021, the startup produced the voice of young Luke Skywalker for The Book of Boba Fett series.
In a report from Vanity Fair, Matthew Wood from Lucasfilm mentioned that Jones had helped guide the project for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series that premiered earlier this year.