James Earl Jones (born January 17, 1931) is a well-known American actor who was born in Arkabutla, Mississippi, the son of Robert Earl Jones, and raised in Dublin, Michigan, by his maternal grandparents.
He is of Irish, Cherokee and African descent. He moved to Michigan around the age of 5, when he developed a stutter so severe he refused to speak aloud. He remained functionally mute for 8 years until he reached high school. He credits a high school teacher who discovered he had a gift for writing poetry with helping him out of his silence. The teacher believed forced public speaking would help him gain confidence and insisted he recite a poem in class each day. "I was a stutterer. I couldn't talk. So my first year of school was my first mute year, and then those mute years continued until I got to high school."
Ironically, he is most famous for his deep authoritative voice. Jones went on to graduate from the University of Michigan. His first wife was actress/singer Julienne Marie (aka Julienne Scanlon), who was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1933, though she would later shave off ten (10) years; their union was childless. James Earl Jones is currently married to Cecilia Hart (since 1982), and they have one child.
His first film role was in Dr. Strangelove or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in 1964. His first taste of fame came with his portrayal of boxer Jack Jefferson (based on real-life boxer Jack Johnson and a role he had played on Broadway) in the film version of The Great White Hope. For his role, Jones was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award (losing to George C. Scott in Patton).
He has appeared in many roles since, but is probably best known as the sinister voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films (he is uncredited in some of the films). Darth Vader was portrayed in costume, however, by Hayden Christensen in Episode III, and by David Prowse in Star Wars Episodes IV-VI. During postproduction, Jones dubbed over Christensen's voice, and over Prowse as Vader's voice because of Prowse's English West country accent. George Lucas never intended to use Prowse's or Christensen's voice as Darth Vader's. Jones also voiced Mufasa in the Disney animated feature The Lion King; in turn, archival clips of his voice was used for flashback sequences in Kingdom Hearts II.
He also played as Terence Mann in the popular baseball film Field of Dreams, Reverend Stephen Kumalo in "Cry, The Beloved Country", Admiral James Greer in The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and author Alex Haley in the television mini-series Roots.
Jones is an accomplished stage actor as well; he has won Tony awards in 1969 for The Great White Hope and in 1987 for Fences. He received Kennedy Center Honors in 2002. He played the villain Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian.
James has also performed considerable amounts of voice-over work, including guest voices on television's The Simpsons, the CNN tagline ("This is CNN."), and the opening teaser for NBC's coverage of the 2000 & 2004 Summer Olympics.
His other work includes as the voice of 'the Big PI in the Sky' (God) in the computer game Under a Killing Moon, his potrayal of General Solomon in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, a starring role in the television program Under One Roof as widowed police officer Neb Langston (for which he received an Emmy nomination), and television and radio advertising for Verizon Business DSL and Verizon Online DSL from Verizon Communications. He has guest-starred on such sitcoms as Will & Grace and Everwood.