Darth Vader Was Originally Going To Be Voiced By Orson Welles

Orson Welles was once set to voice Darth Vader.

By Kevin C. Neece | Updated

darth vader

George Lucas revealed that he had considered both James Earl Jones and Orson Welles for the voice of Darth Vader. According to Mental Floss, both Lucas and Jones have mentioned the fact that Welles was once considered to play the voice of the iconic Star Wars villain, though Jones clearly won out. And while the 92-year-old actor has officially retired from the role, his voice has lived on in an AI-recreated rendition in Obi-Wan Kenobi that will keep his quietly thundering baritone ringing in fans’ ears for the foreseeable future.

A Darth Vader voiced by Orson Welles might not have had such longevity, though, as the legendary director and star of Citizen Kane and the original War of the Worlds radio drama died in 1985, just over two years after the premiere of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in 1983. This would have presented problems for later installments that have featured Jones in the role and would have seen Welles, whose voice is also widely recognizable, replaced with another actor. Jones has portrayed Vader as recently as 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker starring Daisy Ridley, only last year being replaced by an AI version of his younger voice for Obi-Wan, though IMDb still credits him with the performance.

The AI aid for Jones’ Darth Vader is something that would not have been available following the death of Welles, whose voice was feared to perhaps be too recognizable on its own at the time. Jones’ voice has, of course, gone on to become associated with Mufasa from The Lion King, a character he has reprised as recently as 2019 in the live action-and-CGI remake, but that has hardly hurt his presence as Vader. Still, Jones is not the only actor to have provided a voice for the role, nor has he performed the character most often.

Orson Welles in Citizen Kane

The actor who has provided the voice of Darth Vader more than any other is Matt Sloan, who has played the character 21 times to date, mostly in licensed Star Wars properties like video games, such as Star Wars: Battlefront and the LEGO Star Wars productions. Sloan started on YouTube with his producing partner Aaron Yonda at Blame Society Productions, where he played Vader’s less successful younger brother Chad in the series Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager. His work on the series, which he co-created with Yonda, so closely mimicked Jones’ performances that it apparently caught the attention of Lucasfilm, who began employing him as the Sith Lord’s primary video game and animation actor.

Scott Lawrence has also voiced Darth Vader in several other video games going back to the mid-1990s and, most recently in 2020’s Star Wars: Squadrons. Lawrence’s voice has appeared across the Star Wars franchise in video games and as Jarek Yeager in the animated series Star Wars: Resistance. Other actors who have played the role in video games include Clint Bajakian, Ryan Andes, Fred Young (who voiced the 1992 Star Wars pinball game), and perhaps most notably, Fred Tatasciore, well known for his work in animation, including portraying Lieutenant Shaxs in Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Sadly for Orson Welles, the only Kane to play Darth Vader has been actor Tom Kane in the video game LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy. But happily, for all of us, James Earl Jones’ voice will live on in a galaxy far, far away for a long time to come.