With Darth Vader set to return in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series for Disney+, an old interview with James Earl Jones has resurfaced where the actor opened up about his experience becoming the iconic voice of Dark Lord of the Sith. According to Jones, he was only paid $7,000 to voice Vader in the very first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. While that doesn’t sound like much today, it was nothing to sneeze at in the mid-1970s, and Jones was thrilled to make so much money for just doing voice work. (English actor and bodybuilder David Prowse was the man in the suit for the original trilogy.)
“George wanted, pardon the expression, a dark voice,” Jones told AFI. “So he hires a guy born in Mississippi, raised in Michigan, who stutters. And that’s the voice. That’s me.”
As for the paycheck, Jones was all for his salary: “I lucked out, from all these so-called handicaps, for a job that paid $7,000! I thought that was good money. And I got to be a voice on a movie!”
Interestingly, Jones also revealed that he butted heads with George Lucas over Vader’s depiction in The Empire Strikes Back, which is often cited as the best Star Wars movie in the series. The actor wanted Vader to sound “more subtle” and “psychologically oriented,” but Lucas had a specific plan.
“He said, ‘We don’t know what we did right, so let’s just try what we did… What we’re finding out is you need to keep his voice on a very narrow band of inflection because he ain’t human, really,’” Jones said.