After 45 years of giving voice to one of the most iconic characters in film history, James Earl Jones bids farewell to Darth Vader. At 91, the legendary actor recently told Disney that he was “looking to kill off this particular character.” That forced the company to wonder how Jones is replaced. The answer that Disney ultimately resolved, with the actor’s consent, involved an AI program.
If you’ve seen any of the recent Star Wars shows, you’ve heard of Respeecher’s work. It’s a Ukrainian startup that uses archival recordings and a “proprietary artificial intelligence algorithm” to create new dialogue with the voices of “artists from long ago.” In the case of Jones, the company worked with Lucasfilm to recreate his voice as it sounded when movie audiences first heard Darth Vader in 1977.
According to , Jones had signed with Disney using recordings of his voice and Respeecher’s software to “keep Vader alive”. Lucasfilm veteran Matthew Wood told the outlet that James guided the Sith Lord’s performance in Obi Wan Kenobiacting as “a benevolent godfather”, but ultimately it was the AI that gave Vader his voice in many of the scenes.
While there is something to be said for preserving Vader’s voice, Disney’s decision to use an AI to do so is likely to add fuel to disagreements over how such technology should be used in creative fields. For example, Getty Images recently surpassed art. With Jones, there’s a chance we could hear him express Vader long after his death.
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