Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes us back to the era of the original trilogy for the first time in nearly 40 years. As such, it opens up the opportunity for the return of some of our favorite characters. Now, we know that one of them is going to sound properly when we hear him again. While the man inside the massive Darth Vader suit will be different in Rogue One, the man providing the voice will still be the iconic James Earl Jones.
The return of James Earl Jones to voice the iconic Star Wars villain was one of those things that we were all more or less expecting to hear. Who else could possibly do that job? However, until now, it wasn't confirmed, and we generally don't make assumptions about things like that. Jones is 85 years old, so there was no guarantee he'd be willing to reprise the role yet again. However, Entertainment Weekly has now verified that the unforgettable voice will return.
This leaves the only significant Darth Vader question to be, how much of James Earl Jones' voice we actually hear during Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We know that the film's primary bad guy will be Ben Mendelsohn's character, not Vader, so it doesn't sound like we'll be getting a great deal of Vader actually on screen. Another report from EW yesterday said that Vader would be a presence over the film, even when not on screen, which makes it sound like Vader may be influencing the story, but that he may be doing that mostly from off screen.
While James Earl Jones will be back as the voice of Darth Vader, stuntman and actor James Wilding will be the man in the suit. He'll take over for David Prowse, now 80 years old himself, who handled Vader's body throughout the original trilogy. Unfortunately, for the man in the costume, the voice is the part of the character that fans truly associate with Darth Vader, making Jones' return significantly more important to this being the "classic" Lord Vader. In the end, if the guy in the suit does his job right, he ends up not being noticed at all.
Whatever the size of the role, we now also have some confirmation about the type of role that Darth Vader will have in the film. As we surmised yesterday, Vader will essentially be the muscle for the Galactic Empire. Every description of the role seems to include the word "looming." It sounds like Vader is the guy who keeps the Empire in line, because they know they'll have to answer to him if they screw up.
We're very excited to know for sure that James Earl Jones will be back. And we feel sorry for the poor bastard who's inevitably going to get Force-choked in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.