James Earl Jones to Voice Darth Vader in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

By June 23, 2016

Yesterday was a great day for Star Wars fans, as we learned a ton of new information about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, including confirmation of the long-standing rumor that Darth Vader would be featured in the upcoming spinoff film. Arguably one of the most iconic figures in the Star Wars universe, the Emperor’s chief enforcer will return to the big screen this year, and today Entertainment Weekly has revealed that James Earl Jones will once again provide the voice of the Sith Lord.

Jones’ booming voice is synonymous with Vader, and even though other actors have taken a crack at the character for video games, animated adventures, and other projects, there’s nothing quite like the original. Jones has been popping up as Vader in recent episodes of Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels, so it should be easy for him to slide right back into the role.

So the obvious question is how much screen time will Vader have in Rogue One? Not much, according to producer Kathleen Kennedy:

“He will be in the movie sparingly. But at a key, strategic moment, he’s going to loom large.”

While this news may be disappointing to some Star Wars fans, I’m actually alright with it. Using Vader in the film is a great way to tie Rogue One into the larger mythology, but this is still a different sort of story, and it should look and feel different than other Star Wars stories. Devoting too much screen time to an existing character runs the risk of short-changing our new heroes and villains, and that’s precisely what director Gareth Edwards is looking to avoid. In fact, he says that Vader is more of a legendary figure than anything else, something whispered about in hushed tones:

“Within the Rebellion, it’s not commonly spoken about. Within the Empire, there is the culture of knowing of the existence of Darth Vader. There’s definitely an underlying feeling that there is a power – a dark power – available to the Empire and that if you overstep your mark, you will suffer the consequences.”

The primary antagonist of Rogue One will be Director Osron Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), a rising star in the Empire who feels threatened by Vader and his relationship to Emperor Palpatine. As the commander of the Deathtroopers, Krennic is tasked with quashing the Rebel Alliance, an act which he hopes will elevate him in the eyes of the Emperor and put him on a level playing field with Vader. Lucasfilm’s chief of story development, Kiri Hart, says:

“Vader doesn’t really play by the rules. He’s present in the military structure, but he’s not beholden to it. He’s not accountable to anybody, really, except Palpatine.”

This lack of accountability is something that doesn’t sit well with a career military man like Krennic, and EW’s report tells us to expect plenty of palace intrigue and political maneuvering. The Empire sounds like an “every man for himself” kind of place, and Krennic seemingly has no qualms about backstabbing and sabotaging his way to the top of the food chain. But is he prepared to challenge someone like Vader?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scheduled for release on December 18.

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Brent Hankins

Brent Hankins

Contributing Writer at GeekNation
Brent Hankins is a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle and co-host of the Drinks and Discourse podcast. He's also the proud owner of an Italian Greyhound named Sullivan. He's adorable (the dog, not the author).