In today’s blog , I am paying tribute to science fiction and fantasy icon, James Earl Jones!

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.

Darth VaderI 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.”

I complied.

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.

Thulsa DoomWhy 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.

Of course, the Star Wars movies added tremendously to his iconic status as did his portrayal of the villain Thulsa Doom in the 1982 film, Conan the Barbarian.

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.

 

 

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at https://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

15 responses »

  1. Milton Davis says:

    Man, that must have been some experience! And I’ve seen most of those movies. His portrayal of Thulsa Doom is the highlight of the Conan movie.

    • Balogun says:

      Yes, it was a Blacknificent experience, inDEED!
      Thulsa Doom and Darth Vader are in my top five favorite movie characters.
      Thanks for your comment, Milton!

  2. Yes, James Earl Jones, certainly has done a lot. Most people don’t know that he trained his voice to be like that. I think he had a speech impediment, which he worked on to
    get that beautiful classically trained voice. Good Post!!! – Thanks.

  3. What a beautiful and moving tribute, Balogun. Lucky you for getting to meet one of your idols. James Earl Jones has always seemed like a compelling yet humble actor, and you proved it with your remembrance of him. I always found it fascinating that he stuttered, yet possessed such a rich and powerful baritone. The way he overcame his condition led me to study the traits of people with speech impediments, which resulted in a screenplay. Thanks again for your reflections on this sci-fi icon!

    • Balogun says:

      Thanks, so much, Nicole! Stutterers don’t stutter when they act, sing, or whisper. Acting was the perfect avenue for James Earl Jones to find empowerment and ease to his suffering.

  4. Balogun, I’m tearing up and crying. What an incredible story. I, too, love James Earl Jones but your story just touched something even deeper. Thanks so much for sharing. How awesome!

  5. This is a beautiful and moving post Brother Balogun! Thank you! I’ve seen James Earl Jones in so many films, and I’ve always admired him. But looking at your list I see I’ve missed some movies — quite a few in fact. Thanks too for the list, cause I’m going to look for them.

  6. […] Although I am a fan of several actors, I only consider one to be an idol of mine. That actor is James Earl Jones. For more on why he is one of my idols check out https://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/02/18/state-of-black-scifi-2012-my-tribute-to-science-fiction-an…. […]

  7. darkwriter67 says:

    Reblogged this on Illuminite Caliginosus.

  8. Fujimoto says:

    What a wonderful tribute. One of the best voices of our times.

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