James Earl Jones on How He Became a Star: “That’s a great question — I don’t have a clue”

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The deep baritone of James Earl Jones is arguably the most recognizable voice in film history. While his voice is known for his roles in dozens of movies, it’s undoubtedly most famous for movies he actually has no physical presence in: voicing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy and Mufasa in The Lion King.

However, it would be grossly unfair to think of Jones as just a voice because he has been acting in film and on stage regularly since his first movie, 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He gave an interview to The New York Times to mark his fiftieth year as a film actor about his latest movie, Gimme Shelter, and his recent series of Sprint commercials.

When asked what his secret of longevity is, Jones replies, “The secret is never forgetting that you’re a journeyman actor and that nothing is your final thing, nothing is your greatest thing, nothing is your worst thing. I still consider myself a novice.”

While Jones might be slightly underestimating his experience by referring to himself as a “novice,” he did have the opportunity to work with a young actress on Gimme Shelter, Vanessa Hudgens. While he admits he was unfamiliar with Hudgens before working with her, he says, “It’s wonderful to work with a new generation. It’s great to know that talent keeps coming. I still run into kids who will ask me, ‘How do you become a star?’ Well, that’s a great question — I don’t have a clue.”

Jones is no stranger to commercial work — his voice has been used for the “This is CNN” bumpers for years. As for his recent series of Sprint commercials, in which Jones and also famously-voiced actor Malcolm McDowell speak in “text” language, Jones had just one worry. He says, “The only fear I had was that the kids would think we were mocking them. Our director said, ‘Give it all the dignity and all the power that you can whether you understand it or not.’ Totes McGotes.”

 

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