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Facts We Just Learned About James Earl Jones That Made Us Say 'Really?'

May 10, 2021 7.1k votes 1.2k voters 121.2k views10 items

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James Earl Jones can lay claim to one of the most recognizable voices in cinema. That deep, rumbling baritone has delivered commanding Shakespearean performances, as well as the most sinister threats in a galaxy far, far away. Surprisingly, the actor almost never discovered his voice; he spent his early childhood hiding a terrible stutter.

Read on to discover more fascinating facts about James Earl Jones, and vote up the ones you never knew before.

  • Photo: CBS

    Even though James Earl Jones provided the voice of Darth Vader, the secret father of Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), the actor never shared the screen with his estranged daughter. In fact, Fisher and Jones never met at all until they both guest-starred on The Big Bang Theory.

    After the episode aired, Big Bang showrunner Steve Motaro revealed that Fisher welcomed Jones with the warmest greetings. When they both appeared on set, she threw her arms in the air and shouted, "Daddy!"

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  • Photo: Revenge of the Sith / 20th Century Fox
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    He Freaked Out Some Truck Drivers By Using His Darth Vader Voice On CB Radio

    In a 2014 interview with the New York Times, Jones was asked if he ever gets the urge to prank people on the phone by pretending to be Darth Vader. Jones answered that, in fact, he has given in to the dark side:

    I did that once when I was traveling cross-country. I used Darth as my handle on the CB radio. The truck drivers would really freak out — for them, it was Darth Vader. I had to stop doing that.

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  • Video: YouTube

    Jones was the first celebrity guest on Sesame Street, appearing in 1969 to recite the alphabet. The positive response to the segment led the producers to coin the phrase "James Earl Jones Effect."

    Director Jason Tammemagi explains the effect like so:

    children would readily take up the invitation to join in as James Earl Jones recited the alphabet and, on first watch, would say the letters along with him. But as children got more familiar with the segment and the alphabet, they would say the letters before James Earl Jones could. 

    Children not only learned the alphabet but also enjoyed the satisfaction of "knowing what’s happening... getting in there first and getting it right."

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  • Photo: The Empire Strikes Back / 20th Century Fox

    When Star Wars (retroactively titled A New Hope) was released in 1977, James Earl Jones wasn't credited for voicing Darth Vader. That was by his choice. (The recording gig, he says, took only two-and-a-half hours.) Jones also preferred not to be credited for The Empire Strikes Back three years later.

    It wasn't until Return of the Jedi hit theaters in 1983 that Jones finally appeared in the credits. The reason? Enough people finally knew it was him. As the actor explained to Newsday,

    When Linda Blair did the girl in The Exorcist, they hired Mercedes McCambridge to do the voice of the devil coming out of her. And there was controversy as to whether Mercedes should get credit. I was one who thought no, she was just special effects. So when it came to Darth Vader, I said, no I'm just special effects. But it became so identified that by the third one, I thought, OK I've been denying it, I've been saying it sounds like... Geoffrey Holder... and I got away with it. But for the third one, I said OK, I'll let them put my name on it.

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