The most iconic character of the galactic franchise, Darth Vader, made an enduring impact on popular culture. Not just being a villain, Darth Vadar, aka Anakin Skywalker, is a symbol and an archetype that transcended the boundaries of the Star Wars franchise. One of the most distinctive aspects of Darth Vader is his deep, menacing voice. While David Prowse donned the villain, director George Lucas ultimately considered two different actors from the industry to voice the character.

George Lucas chose James Earl Jones over Orson Welles for Darth Vader

Anakin Skywalker's Darth Vader
Darth Vader

During the filming of Star Wars: The New Hope, George Lucas encountered the challenge of finding the right voice for Darth Vader. While David Prowse handled the physical portrayal of the character was found unfit for the character’s vocal requirements.  Therefore, the director went on a quest to find someone with a distinguished, deep voice commanding enough to match the intimidating presence of the iconic villain.

After an extensive search, Lucas came up with two iconic figures for the role. According to Mental Floss, the Lion King star James Earl Jones and Hollywood’s most celebrated icon, Orson Welles, were both considered to voice Darth Vader.

After a troubled interference with the studio during the making of his 1958’s Touch of Evil, Welles rejected Hollywood and moved to Europe. Later the filmmaker returned to the U.S. after a decade, due to the 1970s Hollywood Renaissance.


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Image of James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones

According to James Earl Jones himself in the book The Making of Star Wars, Welles was reached out by Lucas for the Star Wars role. It is unclear whether Welles expressed interest in the roles, however, Lucas ultimately decided to pick Jones’s voice for the character.

During the event where Jones was honored at the American Theater Wing Gala, as reported by Variety, Lucas reflected on his casting decision, stating,

“I created a villain. . . I knew the voice had to be very, very special,” “And I had to make a choice — a choice that was a tough choice, but an easy choice, really — between Orson Welles and James Earl Jones. . . [Jones] won hands down.”

it is undoubtedly clear that Lucas’ decision was the right one, as Jones’s voice became an inseparable component of Darth Vader, and it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Jones continued to voice Darth Vader for nearly 50 years, before announcing his retirement at the age of 92. His iconic voice remains to live through an AI-recreated rendition in the series Obi-Wan Kenobi.


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Orson Welles’s limited potential in Star Wars original trilogy

In addition to Darth Vader, Jones has lent his distinctive voice to various projects. He voiced Mufasa in Disney’s timeless classic The Lion King, and also for several characters of The Simpsons in three separate seasons.

Orson Welles (1915 - 1985), American actor, producer, writer and director.
Orson Welles

In contrast, the Citizen Kane actor Orson Welles passed away in 1985. His final film appearance was Transformers: The Movie which was released after his death in 1986. Additionally, his unfinished movie Other Side of the Wind was later completed and released on Netflix in 2018. If Welles had been chosen for the Star Wars villain, he would not have served the same longevity as Jones. He would only live to play the original Star Wars trilogy and possibly the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.

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Source: Mental Floss and Variety



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