It has been revealed that James Earl Jones signed off rights to Disney so it could use AI to keep the iconic character alive. The 91-year-old actor expressed his plans to Skywalker Sound supervising sound editor Matt Wood, “He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character,” and Matt was then left with the task of how to move forward. Matt had last recorded a bit of dialogue from the famous actor for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Mr. Wood has been working with Ukrainian startup Respeecher to preserve recordings of Jones to train its proprietary AI. Its staff has explained the great lengths they went to in order to get lines processed in time for the recently concluded first season of Obi-Wan Kenobi while trying to survive during the ongoing war. Even though Disney pulled back on its requests out of concerns for employee safety the company was passionate about the project and wanted to finish it. Despite the dangers and hardships, the staff was committed to using the nearly 10,000 files to create roughly 50 lines for the show. The goal was to keep the character sounding as he did in the original 1977 film. Jones is credited for guiding the teams on how to stay on the right course and is described as a benevolent godfather.
Other Star Wars AI characters
This is not the first time that Disney has resorted to using AI to bring back a member of the Skywalker family either. A younger Luke Skywalker has now made multiple visual appearances following his digital AI debut in the season two climatic ending for The Mandalorian. Unfortunately, that first appearance was a bit rough around the edges and Disney ended up hiring a deepfake specialist to help ILM out as the post Return of the Jedi Luke made his next appearance in The Book of Boba Fett. Disney has also used similar techniques for Princess Leia (Rogue One, Rise of Skywalker), albeit with different approaches following Carrie Fisher’s passing, and Grand Moff Tarkin (Rogue One) to present the characters as needed. The company is clearly committed to using characters from the original trilogy for as long as it can in both film and streaming shows.
Source: Vanity Fair