There’s no denying Darth Vader is one of the most famous fictional characters globally. However, it’s not just his black cape or helmet that has taken the world by storm. The Darth Vader voice is one of the most unforgettable parts of the incredible Star Wars movies.
The Darth Vader voice from the Star Wars movies is unmistakable. With its mechanical sound and creepy breathing noises, the Darth Vader voice is one of the most chilling parts of these movies. Creating this voice was an arduous process, but one that paid off big time in the final production.
You see him in ads, the cover of your favorite magazine, and as a Halloween costume. This well-loved villain in the Star Wars franchise may be feared in the films, but everyone seems to want to use the dark side of the Force to be like him. It’s fair to say that Darth Vader’s popularity would not have reached cult status if not for his voice. Can you imagine your favorite villain sounding like your uncle? Maybe not.
While you may already know what his voice sounds like, there are a lot of other Darth Vader voice facts even the biggest fans may not know. For example, did you know he was supposed to be voiced by author Orson Welles, and not James Earl Jones? If you’re a big fan and want to know more about the Darth Vader voice, keep on reading.
This post was updated on March 2021
Who Is Darth Vader?
Darth Vader first appeared in the 1977 flick Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The towering villain sports a black cape, and his face hides beneath a mechanical helmet. The haunting Darth Vader voice cannot only be heard when he speaks but also when he breathes, which sounds very ominous and powerful.
Darth Vader carries a lightsaber, has amazing intelligence, and can do telekinesis. He leads his army to eliminate the Rebel Alliance. The 1980 installment of Star Wars revealed that he is the father of Luke Skywalker. In the following film, he even saves his son’s life. Prequels of the Star Wars movies introduce Darth Vader as Anakin Skywalker, a slave boy trained by Jedi Knights.
As he grows up, he faced challenges of political turmoil. Coupled with the loss of Padmé Amidala, the dark side of the Force consumed Anakin. He ultimately became a Sith lord. Darth Vader donned his mechanical suit, which gave him his iconic voice after nearly killed in a battle with his Jedi mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in Mustafar.
The Darth Vader Voice Is a Cultural Icon
If you make a list of the most easily-recognizable sounds in movies, the Darth Vader voice will surely take a high-ranking spot. The Darth Vader voice is as recognizable as the slashing sound in Psycho and the sound effects in Jaws.
Darth Vader is so popular he even outranked presidential candidates in the 2016 election. His voice is vital to his character and image as the most popular villain in cinema. The character is also one of the most highly revisited roles in cinema, with over 200 TV and movie appearances, including parodies. Almost, if not all, of these appearances feature the Darth Vader voice.
Throughout the Star Wars films, fans have been wondering who the man is behind the Darth Vader voice.
The History of the Darth Vader Voice
Contrary to what you may think, a bunch of actors played Darth Vader. Hayden Christensen wore his costume in the original series. And then David Prowse followed. However, it was James Earl Jones who fans should thank for his distinctive voice.
While shooting the films, David Prowse worried that his lines weren’t clear because of his helmet. Because Prowse had a heavy Devonshire accent, the crew named him “Death Farmer.” Considering this, director George Lucas decided to use a voice actor. Lucas searched high and low for the one who would ultimately voice the villain. Through this process, he discovered James Earl Jones.
James Earl Jones
The strong baritone of Jones’ voice made the selection of the Darth Vader voice simple. The actor had a role in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, written by Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins, who were collaborators of Lucas.
Initially, the director was concerned about casting the only black man in the movie as the villain. However, he could not pass up Jones’ skill because of racial politics. For his contributions in the movie, the voice actor was only paid $7,500 for a recording that only took two and a half hours to finish. He even thought his voice was only for special effects.
Ultimately, Jones was one of the last people to admit that his work in Star Wars was a big deal. Later on, when he became identified with Darth Vader, he realized that there’s no point in denying his significant role. Although his recognition came late, it was still momentous since it was one of the best vocal performances in films.
Yes, Jones lent his voice to Darth Vader. And Lucas had the idea to make his voice sound filtered using a breathing mask. But it was the film’s sound designer Ben Burtt that deserves credit for the final sound.
Darth Vader’s haunting breathing sounds used Burtt’s own breathing in a scuba regulator. He first imagined the villain with a more mechanical voice. However, he thought this might be too much with his mechanical suit. Otherwise, The Dark Lord would be very noisy. Can you imagine hearing whirs every time he moved his head? Or a machine-like heartbeat? Burtt decided to stick with the icy mechanical breathing you hear in the film.
Other notable contributors
In The Empire Strikes Back, another voice came into the picture. However, it did not make it in the final cut. Director Irvin Kershner would do Darth Vader’s lines on the set, and Jones’ even claimed that the director’s high-pitched voice was so scary even he could not pull it off.
Aside from the director, other voice actors lent their voices to the villain. During the early 1980s and mid-1990s, NPR produced radio dramas based on Star Wars. Here, Star Trek actor Brock Peters played Darth Vader’s radio voice. Fans may notice that it was very different compared to Jones’ performance, but it was also interesting in its own right.
Another voice actor, Scott Lawrence, became the voice of Darth Vader in the Dark Forces video game. For Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, the Darth Vader voice was T.C. Carson, and then Matt Sloan in The Force Unleashed.
Several voice talents also voiced translations of the films. These included Silvio Navas for the Brazilian version, Heinz Petruo in the German version, and Isidro Olace and Federico Romano for the Spanish version.
So Who Is James Earl Jones?
Although many people contributed to the voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones made the most impact. He is so closely associated with Darth Vader that most people forget that he is an actual person and not just a machine-programmed voice.
However, he did not simply stumble on the role that would change his life forever. He faced a lot of challenges on his journey to fame. It’s hard to imagine the actor with such an unmistakably strong presence on and off-screen with a stutter. However, stuttering was a major problem for him. According to Jones, he did not talk for much of his childhood. It’s not that he didn’t want to, he simply gave up. It came to the point that he didn’t even introduce himself.
Jones conquered his stutter issues by speaking in public, acting, and reciting poems. If he did not do this, fans might not hear their favorite character’s voice, whether it be Darth Vader or The Lion King’s Mufasa.
He studied pre-med at the University of Michigan but later joined the Reserve Officer Training Troops. Then, he discovered his interest in acting. Even when he was in the military, he was working as a stage assistant during his free hours.
Later on, he moved to New York and went to the American Theatre Wing. Before he became an actor on Broadway, he also had a stint as a janitor. He had his major break when he first performed Shakespeare’s Othello in 1955. He starred in The Great White Hope and Malcolm X.
Jones became the voice of Darth Vader in the first Star Wars film in 1977, Star Wars Holiday Special TV movie in 1978, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in 1983, Monopoly Star Wars video game in 1997, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith in 2005 (uncredited), Star Wars Rebels TV series from 2014 to 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker in 2019.
Fans all over the world were delighted when he reprised his role in the recent Star Wars films 30 years after the release of the Return of the Jedi. While he may not be a leading star in the movies, his character still played a significant role in setting the mood for the strategic moments. Jones was not present during the filming and a body double wore the mask and armor. But he recorded the Darth Vader voice with director Gareth Edwards, who recounted in a Jimmy Kimmel interview that he had a fanboy moment during this experience.
How to Get Your Own Darth Vader Voice
If you’re not guilty of trying your best impersonation of the famous Darth Vader Voice, are you a true fan at all? Although you’re not James Earl Jones, you can still recreate the legendary voice thanks to technology and audio tools.
Or if you’d rather take the analog path and are looking for high-quality professionals who can play Darth Vader to perfection, you should consider hiring a Pro on Bunny Studio. Our Pros know their stuff, and they’re ready to bring the Dark Side of the Force to your projects.
But, if you’d like to try other options first, here they are:
Although Cubase is a high-end program many people do not have access to, it’s your best bet to recreate the Darth Vader voice. All you need is to do modifications in the pitch shifting, chorusing, and phasing. You may also use the free software Audacity. While it may not give you the best results, it’s worth a try.
There’s also text-to-speech software that can do a pretty spot-on Darth Vader.
If editing your voice using various audio software is not your thing, you could use the Hasbro voice changing mask. It’s a great toy to use, especially if you love participating in cosplay events. The mask produces a robotic sound.
The Most Iconic Voice in Cinema
Thanks to the iconic Darth Vader voice, Star Wars has assembled a vast following to this day. If there’s one thing the villain’s voice has taught Star Wars lovers, it’s that the force is truly strong in Darth Vader’s voice. His every line remains in the hearts of millions of people. Surely, any true fan would welcome nightmares featuring the dark, low, and spine-chilling Darth Vader voice.