James Earl Jones is an American actor best known for voicing Darth Vader in the
Star Wars franchise.
James was born in Arkabutla, Mississippi, but was raised in Michigan. His father, Robert Earl Jones, who himself was an actor and boxer, left the family shortly after James’ birth. James was estranged from his father for many years, before reconciling with him in his adulthood. It was his maternal grandparents who raised him. Though an African-American, he is also of Irish and Native American descent.
He was severely traumatized due to these incidents that took place during his childhood. As a consequence, he developed a stutter, which he overcame during his high school years. James was very self-conscious and shy due to his stutter. James said that his stutter was so bad that he couldn’t even introduce himself when his family had guests over. He started talking again when he was in high school. A teacher had helped him get over his stutter. James had written a poem, and his teacher wanted him to prove that he had written it all by himself. James was asked to stand up and recite the poem from memory, which he did so without stuttering. So the teacher used this as a technique to get James to talk. James describes the teacher as ‘a great English teacher who believed in language.’
James attended the University of Michigan. He was a pre-med major there. After graduating from college, he fought in the Korean War.
He later moved to
New York City where he studied American Theatre Wing. However, his roles were limited due to his race, and he took to scrubbing floors to make ends meet.
He made his first Broadway debut in the late 1950’s in the play ‘Sunrise at Campobello’. Since then, he has had a string of successful movies and dramas. He played the title character in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, a character which he would be playing numerous times. On stage, he had his career breakthrough when he played the boxer Jack Johnson in the Broadway play, ‘A Great White Hope’. This performance earned James his first Tony award.
In 1969, he became the first celebrity guest to appear on the popular children’s show, ‘
Sesame Street’. In 1970, he starred in the film adaption of ‘A Great White Hope’, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe award. Jones reconciled with his father, Robert, in his adulthood, and they starred together in the stage adaption of John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Men and Mice’, as Lennie Small and Crooks respectively.
James began one of his most iconic film roles by voicing Darth Vader in the 'Star Wars film series- Star Wars' (1977), 'The Empire Strikes Back' (1980), and 'The Return of the Jedi' (1983).
In 1993, he lent his voice to the character of Mufasa in ‘
The Lion King’. That same year he published a memoir titled ‘Voices and Silences’, in which he talks about his career and his early family life. In 2001, he lent his voice to the documentary, ‘Black Indians: An American Story’, which deals with the racial issues that African-Americans of Native American descent face. In 2005, he once again portrayed Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In 2014, he acted in the Broadway play, ‘You can’t take it with you’. This marked his first performance in a comedy. Even though a review said that James ‘infuses every word with a steady grace,’ James thought that he was inarticulate as he was always uncomfortable with words.
James is famous for his deep, authoritative voice. He is known particularly for his resonant, ‘This is CNN’, for the Cable News Network.
In 1971, James won a Golden Globe Award for his role in the film adaption of his play, ‘A Great White Hope’. In 1971, he won a Grammy Award for his audio book, ‘Great American Documents’. In 1991, he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor-Drama, for his role in the television series, ‘Gabriel’s Fire’. In 2002, he received the John F. Kennedy Centre Honour. In 2011, he was presented with an Honorary Academy Award. He is a member of EGOT, for he has won all the four major awards- an Emmy(E) , a Grammy(G), an Oscar(O) and a Tony(T).
James married American actress and singer Julienne Marie, with whom he has no children. Since 1982, he has been married to actress Cecilia Jones. They have one son, Flynn Earl Jones.
Another version of this bio.
James Earl Jones is an American Veteran Actor. He was born in the city of Arkabutla in the state of Mississippi in the United States on 17th Day of January in 1931. He is one of the most noted versatile actor in the history of America. He has a career spanning over 6 decades in the acting industry. As a child, Jones was a stutter. He attributes this to his moving in with his maternal grandparents who were farmers.
It was a traumatic experience for a 5-year old James and resulted in him developing a severe case of slutter that he refused to speak and had 8 functionally mute years till he entered his high school. He gives credit to his English Teacher Mr.Donald Crouch from Brethren High School in Michigan; it was he who helped him overcome his slur by recognizing his gift of poetry writing.
He did his High Schooling from Browning School for Boys and graduation from the Brethren High School from Brethren, Michigan. He also attended the University of Michigan as a pre-medical major, but later on developing a fondness for Drama and shifted focus to studying at University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance. He also joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps and excelled in it.
He took comfort in the environment of military and enjoyed his time with fellow cadets of Pershing Rifles Drill Team and the Scabbard and Blade Honor Society. James Earl Jones had the honour of serving his country in the Korean War. He received his commission as a Second Lieutenant and worked part time as a stage crew hand in Manistee, Michigan at the Ramsdell Theater as he waited for his deployment for the war. He got commissioned to report to the Fort Benning and attend a basic course of Infantry Officers.
This was during mid-1953. He also went on to receive Ranger Tab from Ranger School, which as per his interview 2011 he was “washed out” of his training. His unit that was to report to the Fort Leonard Wood then took cold weather training command at the Camp Hale near Leadville in Colorado. His battalion also became a training unit in the terrains of Rocky Mountain. Before his discharge, James was granted promotion to be a First Lieutenant. After his military service, he shifted base to New York to study at the American Theater Wing and supported himself by working as a Janitor.
As an actor, he performed in a Shakespearean Play “Othello” in the year of 1955 and played the lead role. As a stage actor, James has many accomplishments this name. He has won many awards like Tony Award for his portrayal in “The Great White Rope” and “Fences” in 1969 and 1987 respectively. He went on to play in Shakespearean plays like “Othello”, “The Lion King”, “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream”, “Hamlet” and “Measure for Measure”. Over the span of his career, he played many a stage role, of which some of his recent ones are that in “Much Ado about Nothing” by
Mark Rylance where he starred opposite Vanessa Redgrave at the Old Vic., London.
He also opened “The Gin Game” play in 2015 at the Jn Golden Theater which will have a limited run of only 16 weeks. His first film role was in 1964 that of a young Lt. Lothar Zogg, a B-52 bombardier in the movie titled “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. His first starring major film role was a portrayal of a boxer named “Jack Jefferson” in The Great White Hope in the 70s. For this role, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciencesnominated him in the Best Actor category.
It made him the second African-American male actor after Sidney Poitier to ever receive a nomination. These were among his most noted roles. He also worked as a voice artist and gave his voice to “Darth Vader” in the Star Wars of 1977 and its sequels “Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1983 and 1980 respectively. He also gave voice to the Character of Mufasa in the Disney animated movie “The Lion King” and “The Lion Kind II: Simba’s Pride” Jones has also narrated the 27 books of the New Testament (of Bible).
His latest voice-over was for “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar”. He has also done Television shows like “Gabriel’s Fire”, “Heat Wave”, “Under One Roof”, etc. Jones is also known as the only Actor to receive two Emmy Awards in the same year. He received the Best Actor award in 1991 for his role in “Gabriel’s Fire” and an award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Heat Wave". His Awards include: Two Emmy’s, Academy Honorary Award, Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, Tony Award, a Golden Globe, and much more for his versatility