Although the only ever reenactment of “The Lion King” movie was released in 2019, following its first release in 1994, fans would agree that only a few actors could have pulled off the “Mufasa” baritone-like voice of James Earl Jones. However, there was a time in Jones’ life when he could not verbally express himself.
James Earl Jones is known in Hollywood for his acting prowess and voicing skills, reminiscent of sophistication. Playing Mufasa in “The Lion King” and Darth Vader in “Star Wars” are two instances that show Jones knows his onions. However, it might be quite shocking to know that Jones didn’t always have that commanding voice, or a voice at all.
Jones suffered severe speech impairment as a child, and it was quite disturbing that he thought he was cursed. Here’s a look through Jones’ woes and how he overcame them.
Inside Jones’ Childhood
It goes without saying that James Earl Jones’ Mississippi undertones could hardly go unnoticed, having been born in the Magnolia state. As a child barely in his formative years, Jones’ family, excluding his father, moved to Michigan.
Quite a few factors contributed to his speech issues, and moving to a farm in Michigan was one. James’ family also had a medical history of sinusitis, a condition that affects the nasal passages.
This had contributed to his speech impairment. In a 2010 interview with DailyMail, Jones recalled that he had an uncle, Randy, who was quite close in age with him, and they were playmates.
Randy stuttered so much as a child, and Jones found himself often mimicking him. This ended up being the bane of his childhood life, and with time, Jones became a stutterer. He mentioned:
“I used to imitate him. I don’t know whether I was imitating him to keep him company or to embarrass him. And then I ended up stuttering. I feel I was cursed.”
But the biggest bet is that Jones’s condition came from genetics, and studies have shown that about five percent of children will stutter while growing up. And James must have fallen in that category.
How Stuttering Affected The Darth Vader Star
As a child, Jones did not know about statistics or what studies have said about speech impairment and stuttering, but all he knew was that his inability to articulate properly made him highly insecure.
The now-90-year-old actor once told CNN’s Becky Anderson that he “stuttered so badly” that he ultimately gave up on speaking. But all hope was not lost because Jones found a savior in his high school English teacher.
The “Conan The Barbarian” actor recalled his fear made him a mute but did not stop his love for literature. Jones wrote poems that the teacher admired. The “idea of being able to say those words” soon piqued his interest.
Jones longed to speak the magical words strung together in literature, and his English teacher, Donald Crouch, could not have been in his life at a better time. He said about Crouch:
“But the English teacher encouraged me [by] saying: ‘if you like the words you’ve got to be able to say them’. That’s what started it.”
Towards the end of his high school studies, Crouch urged Jones to take elective subjects in drama, debate, and reading. And they were instrumental in giving him a voice again.
Becoming A Great Actor
Crouch, reading, debate, and drama combined, were the magic behind the award-winning actor’s voice. But by the time he was done with high school, Jones’ love for acting was already born.
A young James Earl Jones started his career with plays and on Broadway, appearing in projects like 1957’s “The Congo, “and ”Sunrise at Campobello.” He became a film actor a few years later starring in “Dr. Strange: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”
James Earl Jones’ movies include “The Great White Hope” that won him a Tony award, “Root, The Next Generations,” “Fences,” ‘Coming to America,” and “Coming 2 America.”
In over seventy years of his career, Jones has appeared in and voiced in over 100 films, with his notable role as Darth Vader in “Star Wars, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, “The Lion King,” and “The Lion Guard.” Jones is an EGOT Hollywood actor with an honorary Oscar won in 2013.