‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ fans uneasy about AI-assisted Darth Vader voice

Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

Obi-Wan Kenobi fans are uneasy after finding out James Earl Jones’ voice cameo as Darth Vader was made possible with at least the assistance of artificial intelligence — if not generated by a computer entirely from scratch.

Initially, fans were blown away at how good the 91-year-old Jones sounded in “Part III” of the Disney Plus prequel continuation, proclaiming it to be an even superior effort than his cameo in Rogue One. However, when fans scrutinized the credits of the episode, they discovered Respeecher was credited for “Voice Conversion Services.”

This led some fans to believe that perhaps Jones didn’t do any voice acting work at all for the TV show, but that instead, his performances were generated from scratch using a computer. That was a prospect one Twitter called “Utterly horrifying” and “Just pure cyberpunk dystopia hell.”

However, there is not really any hard evidence to support that Jones didn’t do any voice acting himself. While his audio likeness being generated solely from a computer is still a possibility, as Disney has not gone into details about how the cameo came to be, the same technology was used before in The Book of Boba Fett for Mark Hamill’s reprisal as a digitally de-aged Luke Skywalker.

As Cinemablend pointed out, it’s entirely possible “that the Respeecher tech could have been used to simply augment dialogue Jones recorded specifically for Obi-Wan Kenobi to make the character sound more like he would a little under a decade before the events of A New Hope, when he’s not as fully formed.”

For one Twitter user, they saw no difference between using AI to assist a voice performance and using makeup to alter an actor’s look in a film or play.

Another fan disagreed, saying the AI could rob an actor of properly conveying their intended inflection and tone in their voice.

Another Twitter user pointed out that we truly don’t know all the facts in this particular instance, but the end result is unarguably that “He does sound closer to the OG trilogy than he did in Rogue One.”

“[L]ike it or not, this is probably going to be the future,” the user said.

Regardless of whether Jones did or didn’t provide his acting talents for Obi-Wan Kenobi, there’s little doubt AI technology is accelerating at a break-neck pace. Soon, there may be a time when actors won’t even be required to portray characters in our favorite movies or TV shows. Whether your think that’s a good thing, or not, is up to you.

About the author

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson covers entertainment news for WGTC and has previously enjoyed writing about housing, homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic, historic 2020 Oregon wildfires, and racial justice protests. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Danny received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master's in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Oregon. He has written for The Portland Observer, worked as a digital enterprise reporter at KOIN 6 News, and is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary 'Escape from Eagle Creek.'