August 19, 2016 – James Earl Jones, who has given life to Darth Vader with his sonorous voice, has long been a fan favorite. With a career spanning 60 years, the 85-year-old actor has garnered a Tony Award, Golden Globe Award, three Emmy Awards, an Honorary Academy Award, and many other honors.
For fans in the know, James Earl Jones has willingly signed, for free, most items that fans have sent him: postcards, photos of Vader, DVD covers of The Lion King (he voiced Musafa), art work, autobiographical pictures, and more. The only requirements had been that you send a written Letter of Request, a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope using U.S. stamps), and the item(s) you wished him to sign.
For several years, fans who mailed his New York address (or whichever stage theater he was performing at), would patiently wait. Sometimes two months. More often eight months. In one instance, 18 months. But then the magic day would arrive, and the autographed photo would arrive in the mail.
Well, it looks like those gravy days are over. Starting sometime in February, 2016, some fans have been reporting on Fanmail.biz that their unsigned photographs are being mailed back RTS (return to sender), or that their SASE is used with a note that says, apologetically:
Unfortunately, I am returning your item(s) unsigned. As you can imagine, James Earl Jones is overwhelmed with requests. With his very busy schedule, he just doesn’t have enough time to get to them all. He is very touched and wants to thank you for being such a fan. May the Force Be With You.”
Despite the February cut-off date (give or take), an occasional fan has successfully received an autograph. However, this may reflect the fact that submissions were mailed last year and that James Earl Jones is simply clearing up the backlog of requests.
It should probably come as no surprise that the 85-year-old actor is seeking a break from signing. More importantly, he is reprising his voice-over role, yet again, as Lord Vader in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The producers have not said who will physically portray Darth Vader in his helmet and cape, but so far, it doesn’t sound like 80-year-old David Prowse will be returning. Health issues and a rumored fallout between Prowse and George Lucas/Lucasfilm preclude his return.