DocDePoe alerts us to an article in the Toledo Blade. James Earl Jones spoke at a lecture and had the following to say:
The first time he did the voice-over for Darth Vader (actor David Prowse was in the costume), it took half a day, and he was paid $7,000. After that, for Star Wars sequels, he received a percentage of the gross. "The odd part in The Empire Strikes Back was just trying to figure what we did right. As an actor I wanted to improve it. I wanted to give Darth more subtlety and variety and they said, ?No, no. In the other direction. The more inflection you have the more human he sounds and we don?t want him to sound human.? And if you listen to the breathing and how it coordinates with the voice, it doesn?t. It?s not as a voice but as an electronic sound willed by the man?s brain."
For a while, he says, he didn?t tell people he was the voice of Vader. "Back in the days when CB radios were big, I used ?Darth? as my handle, and driving through Kansas or somewhere, going across country, I would freak people out. I stopped doing that."
Let?s clarify a couple of stories about James Earl Jones:
No. 1: In exchange for a $250 donation to the charity of his choice, he WILL NOT record a message on your home answering machine. Sorry.
"That?s a silly myth," he says. "I would not be allowed to do that. Verizon pays me, and I can?t just be giving it away on everyone?s answering machine. But people ask."
No. 2: He does recall recording the famous "This is CNN" line.
"That?s more silliness. They reminded me I had a recording session and they paid me well for it. One day, my son said, ?Papa, is that you?? And I said, ?I don?t remember that.? It was such a simple thing, it wasn?t a difficult thing to forget."
Asked if he differentiates between doing a voice-over and endorsing something, he said he won?t do a commercial unless he believes in the product. "People use the word ?flack.? It? a nasty word, but they can call it whatever they want."
You must pay him to speak. When your voice is so command- ing that its very tone resounds high above the media cacophony, people do try to, uh, borrow it.
He?s bombarded, he says, by requests from radio and TV stations and talk-show hosts to say the name of their station or their name or anything useful.
More commonly, people try to get him to say something in interviews so they can endlessly recycle the soundbite. (In fact, for his Toledo appearance, hospital publicists were told he wouldn?t do any TV or radio interviews.) Rush Limbaugh used his voice for a while, Jones says, until his lawyer asked them to stop.
There are the times he doesn?t mind. For instance, Darth - will he do it again?
"Are you kidding?" he says, which is a good point: Who else are they going to get?
"I saw George Lucas in Idaho and asked, ?Do I work again?? and he said, ?Well, at some point in the third episode [of the new trilogy, which is about the transformation of young Anakin Skywalker into the evil Darth Vader], Darth will become bionic and he should sound like you then.? He said there might be no more than five minutes at the end.
"And I said, ?Fine, I?ll take whatever you can give me.?"