Most of you know of Mr. Jones’ acclaimed work as the iconic, menacing voice of Darth Vader in the mega-blockbuster Star Wars films (for which he was paid just $9000.00 for Star Wars Episode 4), however, you might not know that James Earl Jones began his nearly fifty-year film career in a Science Fiction movie and has acted in nearly forty science fiction and fantasy movies, television shows and video games.
I will talk about those in just a second, but I would like to first tell you about my meeting and “conversation” with this incredible actor and great person.
I was living in Chicago at the time. I had just left a downtown Thai restaurant and was walking off the delicious panang tofu and tom yum goon when I noticed that one of the streets was cut off and a film was being shot. Having worked on a few sets myself and aspiring to write and direct films, I decided to take a closer look.
It so happens that two of the guys working security were friends I played paintball wargames with every weekend. They let me in and told me that James Earl Jones – one of my favorite actors – was shooting a film called A Family Thing. I was excited, to say the least, and one of my friends walked me over to the director – Richard Pearce – during a break in shooting and told him that I was a fan of James Earl Jones, an aspiring screenwriter and director and that I had done executive protection for several celebrities on a few films.
Mr. Pearce took me by the wrist and said “Come with me.”
He walked me over to James Earl Jones and Robert Duvall – another stellar actor – and introduced me, telling Mr. Jones I was an admirer of his work.
Mr. Jones signaled me to come over. He held out his hands and I took them in mine and he just smiled warmly, not saying a word. He looked toward Mr. Pearce, who leaned in close, almost pressing his ear to Mr. Jones’ lips and Mr. Jones whispered a few words.
Mr. Pearce turned to me and said “James wants you to know that he has been crippled by stuttering all his life, but he wants you to hold his hand and feel the love and appreciation he has for you.” And I did. I stood there, feeling the kindness of this brilliant, talented man I admired so much.
He looked to Richard Pearce again and whispered to him once more. Mr. Pearce paused for a second, swallowed hard and said: “Mr. Jones says that ‘one of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter’, but he hopes you really do feel what he is trying to say. With that tears began to flow down my cheeks. Mr. Pearce wiped the tears from his eyes and even Robert Duvall’s eyes welled with tears. With that, I choked out “Thank you. You just made my year.” And I hugged Mr. Jones. I then shook Robert Duvall’s and Robert Pearce’s hands and then departed, telling my friends that I sincerely owed them a HUGE favor for the hookup.
After that meeting, I was so inspired, I began to write screenplays again and I have told this story to nearly everyone I know. I thank James Earl Jones for that moment and will never forget it.
Why do I call James Earl Jones an icon of science fiction and fantasy (even horror)? Well, as I said at the beginning of this blog, his first film role was in the genre of science fiction. Ever heard of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb? He plays Lt. Lothar Zogg – a B-52 Bombardier – in the 1964 film.
Mr. Jones has also donated his acting talents to the following science fiction, horror and fantasy works:
- The UFO Incident (1975 TV-movie)
- Swashbuckler (1976)
- Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
- The Bushido Blade (1981)
- The Flight of Dragons (1982) (voice)
- Faerie Tale Theatre “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp” (1984)
- Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1987)
- Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987) (voice)
- Terrorgram (1988) (voice)
- Best of the Best (1989)
- Grim Prairie Tales (1990)
- Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (1992)
- The Meteor Man (1993)
- The Lion King (1994) (voice)
- Judge Dredd (1995)
- Stargate SG-1 (1997) (voice)
- Merlin (1998) (voice)
- The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998 Direct-to-video) (voice)
- Fantasia 2000 (1999)
- Robots (2005) (voice)
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) (voice)
- Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey (2009) (voice)
- Jack and the Beanstalk (2010) (voice)
Much respect, James Earl Jones. If you ever read this, I pray you smile and feel what I am trying to say.