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James Earl Jones

James Earl Jones

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Also Known As: Todd Jones Died:
Born: January 17, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Arkabutla, Mississippi, USA Profession: actor, floor waxer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the preeminent stage and screen performers of his generation, award-winning actor James Earl Jones primarily functioned as a high-quality supporting player after a brief run in the 1970s as a leading man. But more famous than any onscreen role was his deep, resonant voice that first gave authority and menace to Darth Vader in "Star Wars" (1977), "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983) - a startling achievement due to his overcoming a debilitating childhood stutter that remained with him throughout his career. Prior to his iconic voice performance in "Star Wars," he made a name for himself on the stage, especially in Shakespearean roles not normally associated with being played by African-Americans. Once his voice became famous, it was only a matter of time until his face became renowned as well, which happened after appearing in a range of movies, from John Sayles' small independent "Matewan" (1987) to "Field of Dreams" (1989) to a trio of blockbusters based on the novels of Tom Clancy, "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), "Patriot Games" (1992) and "Clear and Present Danger" (1994).

One of the preeminent stage and screen performers of his generation, award-winning actor James Earl Jones primarily functioned as a high-quality supporting player after a brief run in the 1970s as a leading man. But more famous than any onscreen role was his deep, resonant voice that first gave authority and menace to Darth Vader in "Star Wars" (1977), "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983) - a startling achievement due to his overcoming a debilitating childhood stutter that remained with him throughout his career. Prior to his iconic voice performance in "Star Wars," he made a name for himself on the stage, especially in Shakespearean roles not normally associated with being played by African-Americans. Once his voice became famous, it was only a matter of time until his face became renowned as well, which happened after appearing in a range of movies, from John Sayles' small independent "Matewan" (1987) to "Field of Dreams" (1989) to a trio of blockbusters based on the novels of Tom Clancy, "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), "Patriot Games" (1992) and "Clear and Present Danger" (1994).

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Gimme Shelter (2014)
3.
 Quantum Quest (2012)
5.
 Poker House, The (2008)
7.
 Earth (2007)
8.
9.
10.
 Scary Movie 4 (2006)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in rural Mississippi by maternal grandparents
:
Moved with family to rural Michigan around the age of five
:
Acted for the first time at the Ramsdell Theater in Manistee, MI
1949:
Made acting debut in a college production of "Deep Are the Roots" at the University of Michigan
:
Served in U.S. Army
1957:
First paying job as Ivan Dixon's understudy in "Wedding in Japan"
1957:
Broadway acting debut as understudy for the role of Perry Hall in "The Egghead"
1958:
Appeared on Broadway in "Sunrise at Campobello"
1959:
Began his long association with the New York Shakespeare Festival
1961:
Acted in acclaimed NYC production of Jean Genet's "The Blacks"
1963:
Received Emmy nomination for guest starring on the series "East Side, West Side" (CBS), starring George C. Scott and Cicely Tyson
1964:
Feature debut as Lieutenant Jimmy Zogg in Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove"
1964:
Appeared in South African playwright Athol Fugard's "The Blood Knot" (NYC)
1966:
Appeared as Dr. Jerry Turner on the daytime drama "As the World Turns" (CBS); one of the first black regulars on a daytime drama
1967:
Second feature, "The Comedians"; once again cast opposite Tyson
1968:
Won his first Tony Award for his role as boxer Jack Johnson in the Broadway production "The Great White Hope"
1970:
Received Best Actor Academy Award nomination for reprising Johnson in the film version of "The Great White Hope"
1970:
Starred in Fugard's "Boseman and Lena" at NYC's Circle in the Square
1974:
Appeared as Diahann Carroll's love interest in the feature "Claudine"
1974:
Played Lennie in the Broadway production of "Of Mice and Men"
1975:
Reteamed with Tyson for "The River Niger" the film version of the award-winning play
1977:
First film with actor Robert Duvall, "The Greatest"; played Malcolm X
1977:
Provided the uncredited voice of Darth Vader in "Star Wars" and in the subsequent sequels
1978:
London stage debut, bringing the one-man show "Paul Robeson" from Broadway
1979:
Portrayed Alex Haley in ABC miniseries sequel "Roots: The Next Generations"
1979:
Cast in TV series "Paris" (CBS), playing titular role of erudite black police captain
1980:
Appeared on stage in Fugard's "A Lesson from Aloes"
1982:
Acted in the Broadway production of "Othello" playing the title role; co-starred opposite future wife Cecilia Hart
1987:
Played the Tony Award-winning leading role in August Wilson's "Fences"
1987:
Acted in John Sayles' "Matewan" and in Francis Ford Coppola's "Gardens of Stone"
1989:
Portrayed skeptical and reclusive writer Terrence Mann in "Field of Dreams"
1990:
Cast as a CIA offical in "The Hunt for Red October," the first of three films based on Tom Clancy novels (also "Patriot Games" in 1992 and "Clear and Present Danger" in 1994)
1990:
Reteamed with Cicely Tyson for the TNT miniseries "Heat Wave," based on the 1965 Watts riots
1990:
Cast as the title character in the ABC drama "Gabriel's Fire" (later retitled "Pros and Cons")
1991:
Acted with Duvall in Peter Masterson's "Convicts"
1994:
Spoke with leonine authority as King Mustafa in Disney's animated feature "The Lion King"
1994:
Returned to series TV in short-lived "Under One Roof" (CBS)
1995:
Movingly portrayed the South African minister in film remake of Alan Paton's famed classic "Cry the Beloved Country"
1996:
Co-starred with Duvall in "A Family Thing"; pair played half-brothers in a script by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson
1997:
Portrayed the best friend of Hume Cronyn in the Showtime movie "Horton Foote's Alone"
1998:
Reprised the voice of Mufasa in the direct-to-video sequel "The Lion King II: Simba's Pride"
1999:
Starred as Dr. William Blakely in Showtime movie "Summer's End"; earned Daytime Emmy Award
2003:
Guest starred on The WB's "Everwood" as a jazz pianist and Ephram's mentor; received an Emmy nomination for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2005:
Returned as the voice of Darth Vader in "Star Wars: Episode III ¿ Revenge of the Sith," the final installment of the series
2005:
Headed the cast in an African-American Broadway revival version of "On Golden Pond," directed by Leonard Foglia; earned a Tony nomination; production closed early due Jones' illness
2008:
Starred in Debbie Allen's revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
2010:
Returned to the Broadway stage in Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy" along with Vanessa Redgrave
2011:
Received an honorary Academy Award
2012:
Joined an all-star cast for "Gore Vidal's The Best Man" on Broadway
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Michigan: Ann Arbor , Michigan - 1953
American Theatre Wing: New York , New York - 1957

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