back to article Darth Vader voice actor James Earl Jones allows AI to take over the role

James Earl Jones, the actor who has voiced iconic Star Wars villain Darth Vader since 1977, has reportedly permitted his past utterances to be fed into an AI that will ensure his distinct tones become replicable once he becomes one with the Force. News that Vader will achieve digital immortality comes from report in Vanity …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Awesome

    Until someone does a fake video with him doing/saying something horrible.

    And we all know that, given time, it will happen.

    Another technological price we are foisting upon ourselves.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      saying ...

      “I am altering the duck. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: saying ...

        “I am altering the duck. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

        Quack

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: saying ...

          I don't think Darth Vader ever had to resort to foul language.

          1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

            Re: saying ...

            Oh God, I had to read that three times before I cottoned on to the pun...

            What a mallardy.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: saying ...

              The farce is strong with this one...

          2. TeeCee Gold badge
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: saying ...

            Damn. Keyboard / coffee.

            You'll be getting the bill.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: saying ...

        Going a bit Twilight Zone……….Submitted for your approval

        Carry On Up The Death Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3NS84flTYc

    2. Eecahmap

      Re: Awesome

      "This is Newsmax".

    3. stiine Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Awesome

      What could be worse than his lines in 'Conan the Barbarian'???

      I used to think I wanted a Garmin GPS unit that featured James Earl Jones' voice, but then I watched 'No country for old men,' and now I want one with Javier Bardem's voice. Can you imagine getting lost if THAT VOICE was telling you when and where to turn?????

      edit:

      Scratch that. I want Caboose's voice (Joel Heyman) from Red vs Blue on my Garmin because I'm old enough to not care when I get lost if its going to be that much fun.

      1. MrBanana Silver badge

        Re: Awesome

        For a short time Waze offered a Liam Neeson voice. Quite the scary deadpan "you WILL turn left at the next junction". I now have Boy George - quite different - anyone for tea?

        1. Martin Summers

          Re: Awesome

          Boy George?

          Does it say "Do you really turn me, do you really want to turn that way?"

    4. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

      Re: Awesome

      I'd love to hear the early attempts. I recall seeing the voice mimicking capabilities were a few years ago, it was pretty impressive back then.

      I hate to be that guy, but it kinda implies he may not be well. Or at his age they are becoming increasingly concerned about his voice legacy?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Awesome

        >I hate to be that guy, but it kinda implies he may not be well. Or at his age they are becoming increasingly concerned about his voice legacy?

        He is 91. With the best will in the world and all the power of the force, he hasn't got much more than 20 years left - at best. This secures his use for future Star Wars projects *forever*.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Awesome

          Hmm. Interesting legal question - will they have to pay his family royalties for the use of a computer-mimic of his voice, long after he's gone?

          (Edit: and now I've read the comments below...)

        2. Sudosu

          Re: Awesome

          respirator noise in background...

          "You're credit is weak old man. Apply for the Disney Card today and get Disney points on every purchase"

  2. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Happy

    Yes. Yes, I did.

    The post is required, and must contain letters.

  3. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Terminator

    I predict lots of new laws to protect media cartels IP from this "Legal minefield".

    So the question for James (and his agents company's 10%), will they (well his surviving family) still get royalty cheques from words uttered by the Respeecher of "James Earl Jones".

    And for the media corporations involved after James becomes one with the Force, how will copyright work with GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) created content ? The sentences from the human written script will be protected by copyright (typically life of author+30 years up to life+100, depending on country - with the bulk of the world in the middle), but what will the legal status of the individual words uttered by the Respeecher of "James Earl Jones" ?

    Initially I can see the copyright on background music being used to protect the individual words.

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: I predict lots of new laws to protect media cartels IP from this "Legal minefield".

      No new laws are required yet. This technology is only reproducing the "sound" of Vader's voice, not the content.

      This has been done with JEJ's permission don't forget. There will be a contract in place to cover who gets paid, and under what circumstances.

      How you can and can't use voices that sound just like famous individuals is already well covered too. We've had impersonators for as log as we've had celebrities, but you try using a pretend Morgan Freeman voice without permission in your latest TV Ad campaign, and see how far that gets you.

      Words in isolation don't have a legal status. It's what you do with them that matters.

      1. Bartholomew Bronze badge

        Re: I predict lots of new laws to protect media cartels IP from this "Legal minefield".

        Yes I agree, but this is new legal territory, what happens once Morgan Freeman is dead ? And his GAN voice is used for the next 200 years ?

        Oh and what is bleeding edge today will be common technology in 20 years time (once any patents around uniqueness have expired). Want to talk to your dead mother/father/brother/sister ? Do so freely with your "friends" at google, amazon and apple, "keeping your departed ones alive forever"™

        1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

          Re: I predict lots of new laws to protect media cartels IP from this "Legal minefield".

          Morgan Freeman? Maybe if I want to take a nap.

          We need to wake people up, especially with boring material. Respeech Samuel "M-F'er" Jackson and dump in the King James Bible (Crown Copyright within the UK, essentially public domain everywhere else), with the AI allowed to add a few "blue" words here and there. That'll spice church right up!

          (Reminds me of an old front-page article from "The Onion", circa 1998-2000, where Jesus made it clear the Afro-American community -- using the "n"-word, no less -- was his homies. Word.)

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: I predict lots of new laws to protect media cartels IP from this "Legal minefield".

      will they (well his surviving family) still get royalty cheques

      That presumably depends on the contract. Maybe he got a lump sum payment for it that becomes part of his estate, maybe there are some residuals when it is used.

      What I think will happen is that voice work will become a thing of the past before long except for stars with already recognizable voices. Rather than hiring a nobody "voice actor" for a part in an animated film (or a CGI character in a non animated film) they'll hire a computer that will be capable of becoming many voices. Only a few parts will go to actual human voice actors, the people with already recognizable voices.

      Inevitably there will be lawsuits, because aside from those few highly recognizable voices most people's voices are similar to other people's voices. The people losing out from voice actor parts will sue if a movie uses a computer voice they think sounds like theirs. Or their heirs will sue - "this computer voice sounds like our dead mother we are hoping to sponge off of for the rest of our lives!"

      So court battles will undoubtedly ensue, and maybe new laws will eventually be needed. Someday we won't even need actors. Once CGI is good enough to leap across the uncanny valley and reproduce humans (rather than raccoons, gollums and aliens) without needing actors wearing weird suits covered by dots, that is when the real legal minefield starts. They might even start suing on particular characteristics - if you create a computer actor with a vein in his forehead throbbing, will Clint Eastwood's family sue, etc.?

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: I predict lots of new laws to protect media cartels IP from this "Legal minefield".

      Disney being Disney, I'm surprised they don't just hire a sound-a-like. Voices aren't copyrighted the way someone's image is and voices of recognizable people (e.g. Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Vincent Price, Orson Welles etc.) have been imitated countless times.

      They probably have a heap of voice actors on the books capable of imparting more nuance and character into Darth Vader than some computer.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Creating False Evidence

    This technology presents wornderful opportunities for abuse by high-resource organizations (criminal and/or government types) to create believable false evidence against people on their respective shit-lists.

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: Creating False Evidence

      I think that it will work the other way as a smart Lawyer will discredit tape recordings as a 'golden sample' of evidence due to these 'deep fakes', and then recordings will be disbelieved as much as other (allegedly) planted material.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Re: Creating False Evidence

        I've been on juries, and the seeming-immunity of my fellow jurors' minds vs logical thought scared me. Don't count on logic to get you free from charges, even if you are truly innocent of those charges.

  5. MiguelC Silver badge

    James Earl Jones is 91 years old

    Wow, I feel old...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: James Earl Jones is 91 years old

      Yeah, that was the horrifying part of the article, for me.

  6. Howard Sway Silver badge

    ability to destroy a planet [or digitally clone a voice] is insignificant next to the Force

    The ability to digitally clone a voice is also somewhat insignificant next to the ability to destroy a planet. And if the Force was more powerful than the Death Star, why did they bother building it when Vader could just have blown everything up with his Jedi skills?

    Anyway, they should open source this, then everybody could be Darth Vader all the time on their phone calls. Although the telcos might get a lot more complaints about heavy breathers.

  7. Santa from Exeter
    Windows

    The Original Darth Vader

    Actually, I read it in a West Country accent.

    (Is that a Cider I see in your hand?)

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: The Original Darth Vader

      S.African Shakespeare rip-off "Is that a digger I see before me".

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Wheatly

      Prowse was ahead of his time. Now we're okay with west-of-England villains. (And to think, he was almost a cockney.)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huh?

    ...or could they just save a load of hassle and a ton of money by using any decent voice actor with a deep voice ?

    With all the krap happening in the world, does it really matter ?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      For no money they have an international techie focussed web site running a free ad for the movie/tv-series/videogame/whatever that they are producing.

      Sounds like a win for some marketing droid

  9. Danny 2 Silver badge

    What did I just say?

    I found a 25 year old video of me and a foreign lass talking to camera. I couldn't understand a single word I said while she was perfectly clear. So I agree with the open source comment, although maybe Robert Carlyle of Ewan McGregor would be more believable voices for me. Hell, Kelly MacDonald would be an improvement.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      Parliamo Glasgow

      Your young self?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_Lk7qivXbw

      With thanks to Stanley Baxter and Una McLean?

  10. Bitsminer Silver badge

    Negative Function

    James Earl Jones' most frightening scene is as the officer cooperating with Major Kong (Slim Pickens) to open the bomb doors in the USAF B-52 advertorial film "Dr Strangelove".

    Lieutenant Lothar Zogg : Backup circuits are switched on. Still negative function.

    They are both trying so hard to start World War III.

    The phrase negative function still resonates.

    1. MrBanana Silver badge

      Re: Negative Function

      Probably a good thing that it was shot in black and white. If shown today it would be hard to distinguish from a documentary.

  11. wolfetone Silver badge

    At least they gave James the option to veto this, poor Peter Cushing had no say in his use in Rouge One.

    1. Pierre 1970
      Coat

      "Rouge one"... yeah, the indiscriminade use of lipstick in that fake animation was disturbing....

  12. Sudosu

    Life imitating art?

    "He's more machine now than man."

    - Obi-Wan Kenobi

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