James Earl Jones Turns a Debilitating Speech Impediment Into ... Well, You Know
Even if you don't know who James Earl Jones is, you know his voice. He's Darth Vader. He's Mufasa. He's the "This is CNN" guy. He's Darth Vader.
What you may not know is just how close the world came to never, ever hearing that voice -- because as a child Jones suffered from a debilitating stutter. Now, normally we wouldn't call something as generally minor as a stutter "debilitating," but in Jones' case, we feel it's entirely warranted (since it's hard to imagine Darth Vader being as menacing that way). As the story goes, when he was just 5 years old, he moved from Mississippi to Michigan with his maternal grandparents after his father skedaddled. Soon after, he developed the aforementioned stutter, possibly because moving a child a thousand miles only to end up in Michigan is considered child abuse in 49 states.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
He's Darth Vader.
The speech impediment got progressively worse, until Jones refused to talk to anyone outside of his immediate family. Then it got even worse until, at 8 years old, he simply stopped talking altogether. From the time he was 8 until he was 15, Jones was completely mute.
In actuality, it turns out his voice was just hibernating ...
... so that it could one day emerge from its chrysalis as goddamn Darth Vader.
Though he didn't so much as utter a word for nigh on eight years, Jones was still fascinated by words of the written variety. His teachers tested him solely through written exams, and Jones was a talented poet. A high school English teacher spotted that talent, and leveraged it into a possible cure for Jones' self-inflicted muteness: "If you like the words, you've got to be able to say them," he said, encouraging Jones to read his poetry in front of the class.
James Earl Jones
Because dunking on fools is way more satisfying when you can trash talk them afterward.
And when he did, the voice that came out was completely stutter-free. It had also changed and grown during those years of going completely unused -- what boomed out was the voice that we all know today: a rumbling bass that circled the classroom like a well-tuned Harley and presumably kick-started puberty in any students present who hadn't hit it yet.