This Sunday the SAG Awards are handed, and we are doing a special coverage. Check out how to watch the SAG Awards online.
One of the most important things we´ll see is a much deserved award:
James Earl Jones Honored will be honored With 2008 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award
James Earl Jones, whose acting prowess and iconic voice are world-renown, will receive the Screen Actors
Guild’s most prestigious accolade—the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award for career achievement and
humanitarian accomplishment. Jones will be presented the Award, given annually to an actor who fosters the
“finest ideals of the acting profession,” at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards®, which premieres live on
TNT and TBS Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. CT and 6 p.m. MT.
In making the announcement, SAG President Alan Rosenberg said, “James Earl Jones’ distinguished career on
stage, in film, on television, in commercials and as a vocal presence without peer commands our admiration and
respect. His long and quiet devotion to advancing literacy, the arts and humanities on a national and local scale
deserves our appreciation. It is our honor to bestow the Guild’s highest tribute on this extraordinary actor.”
Listening to Jones’ voice—recognized around the world—one would never guess that he spent his childhood as a
virtual mute because of a severe stuttering problem. With the help of an outstanding high school teacher, Donald
Crouch, Jones overcame his stutter and transformed his weakness into his greatest strength.
Today, Jones’ voice is known by people of all ages and walks of life: the Star Wars fans who know him as the
voice of Darth Vader; children who know him as Mufasa from Walt Disney’s The Lion King; news watchers who
hear him intone, “This is CNN”; and the countless people who use Verizon phone services, for which he was the
exclusive spokesperson for many years.
Jones’ work in front of the cameras and on stage is as imposing as his magnificent basso profundo. His stature as
one of the greatest actors of the past half-century has been underscored by numerous accolades. He received
the National Medal of Arts in 1992 and a decade later was a Kennedy Center Honoree. The Screen Actors Guild
previously honored Jones in 1995 with an Actor® nomination for his portrayal of South African priest Stephen
Kumalo in the film adaptation of the Alan Paton classic Cry, the Beloved Country.
In 1969, Jones won a Tony® for his breakthrough role as boxer Jack Johnson in the Broadway hit The Great
White Hope. His work in the 1970 film adaptation also garnered him an Oscar® nomination and a Golden Globe®
and landed him on the cover of Newsweek. He won a second Tony in 1987 for August Wilson’s Fences, in which
he played a former baseball player who finds it difficult to communicate with his son. And he received a Tony
nomination in 1995 for the critically acclaimed revival of On Golden Pond, in which he played crotchety Norman
Thayer opposite Leslie Uggams. Jones returned to Broadway this year to portray Big Daddy in a revival of Cat on
a Hot Tin Roof, with Terrance Howard, Anika Noni Rose and Phylicia Rashad.
Earlier this year, Jones was honored with a Drama Desk Special Award as “a commanding force on the stage for
nearly half a century,” adding to the five Drama Desk Awards he has earned since 1965 for his performances in
Othello, The Great White Hope, Hamlet, The Cherry Orchard and Fences. In 1962, he earned his first Obie for
Clandestine on the Morning Line, The Apple and Moon on a Rainbow Shawl. He was honored with a second
Obie in 1965 for Baal.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has honored Jones with three Emmys®: in 1991 for his
performance as Junius Johnson in the TNT movie Heat Wave and his portrayal of title character Gabriel Bird in
the ABC series Gabriel’s Fire and in 2000 for the children’s special Summer’s End. He earned six additional
nominations for the telefilm By Dawn’s Early Light and guest roles on Frasier, Everwood, Under One Roof, Picket
Fences and East Side/West Side. He is also the recipient of two CableACEs and a 1976 Grammy for Great
American Documents. And he has been honored with two NAACP Image Awards and been inducted into the
Image Awards Hall of Fame.
Jones was born Jan. 17, 1931, in Arkabutla, Miss., to Ruth Connelly Jones and Robert Earl Jones, who divorced
before he was born. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, who moved their family to rural northern
Michigan when Jones was 4 years old.
After entering the University of Michigan in pre-med, Jones changed his major to drama. He appeared in student
productions and at the Manistee Summer Theatre, where in 1956 he played the title role in Shakespeare’s
Othello, the first of seven different productions of the play he would tackle throughout his career. After graduation
and serving in the military as an infantry officer, Jones moved to New York City, where he supported himself by
working as a janitor as he struggled to make it as an actor. He made his Broadway debut in 1957 as an
understudy in The Egghead and returned to Broadway the following year in Sunrise at Campobello.
Renowned Broadway producer Joseph Papp gave Jones one of his first major breakthroughs, casting him as
Michael Williams in Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1960. A true visionary, Papp was credited with injecting a “dash of
social conscience” into the performance by casting an African-American in the role. This marked the beginning of
Jones’ long affiliation with the New York Shakespeare Festival, eventually counting the title roles of Othello,
Macbeth and King Lear among his many distinguished performances for the company. In addition to his
celebrated Shakespearian work, in New York he starred in 1964 in the U.S. premiere of Jean Genet’s
controversial The Blacks, with Maya Angelou, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson, and he
began a long-standing collaboration with South African playwright Athol Fugard, acting in The Blood Knot (1964),
Boseman and Lena (1970), A Lesson From Aloes (1980) and the critically acclaimed Master Harold…and the
Boys (1982). He portrayed Lennie in a 1974 Broadway revival of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and
performed the controversial one-man show Paul Robeson first on Broadway in 1977, as his London debut the
following year and in a PBS television production in 1979.
Based on his success in the theater, Jones began to be cast in small television roles. In the 1960s, he was one of
the first African-American actors to appear regularly in daytime soap operas, playing a doctor in both The Guiding
Light and As the World Turns. He made his film debut in 1964 in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I
Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
The 1970s began with his Academy Award®-nominated turn in The Great White Hope and went on to include
performances as the first black president in The Man, as Diahann Carroll’s love interest in Claudine, opposite
Cicely Tyson in The River Niger and portraying a character based on Hall of Fame Negro League catcher Josh
Gibson in the comedy The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, with Billy Dee Williams and Richard
Pryor. He also narrated the Martin Luther King documentary Montgomery to Memphis and a television biography
of Malcolm X.
In 1977, George Lucas, reluctant to employ a recognizable voice such as Orson Welles for Star Wars’ arch-villain,
cast Jones for a day of uncredited vocal work as Darth Vader. Neither men were aware that by the time Jones
was acknowledged for the role in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, his voice would be known around the globe.
Jones’ film performances of the 1980s included his work as an oppressed coal miner in John Sayles’ brilliant
union drama Matewan, as a disenchanted writer in Field of Dreams and as African King Joffe Joffer in the Eddie
Murphy comedy Coming to America. The ’90s found him in the thick of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan trilogy—The
Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. More recently he played Martin Lawrence’s
father in the comedy Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins. He also recorded the narration for Earth, the first film in
the new Disneynature documentary series, which will premiere in April 2009.
Jones’ career also includes a wide range of television work. He played Alex Haley in Roots: The Next Generation
in 1979. He created the title role in the early Stephen Bochco police series Paris, played the title role of the
trailblazing Alabama minister in The Vernon Johns Story and was one of the three wise men in Franco Zeffirelli’s
Jesus of Nazareth. Jones has guest-starred in series ranging from The Defenders and Dr. Kildare to Touched by
an Angel and Homicide: Life on the Street. He has also provided voices for three episodes of The Simpsons,
including the narration of the show’s take on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”
Jones was appointed to the National Council on the Arts in 1972 and to the James Madison Council of the Library
of Congress in 1993. He currently serves on the Actors Fund of America’s Board of Advisors. He introduced
President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1993 Inaugural festivities.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Michigan (his alma mater) in
1970 and Honorary Doctorates in Fine Arts from Princeton University in 1980 and Yale University in 1982. He is
the recipient of the Medal of Spoken Language from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1981), the
Joseph Plateau Life Achievement Award from the Flanders Film Festival (1995), the Eleanor Roosevelt Center
Val-Kill Medal (1998) and a career award from the National Board of Review (1995). In 2004 Jones was honored
with the Harvard Foundation Humanitarian Award and the Actors Fund’s Julie Harris Lifetime Achievement
Jones has long been an advocate for literacy. For many years, as the spokesperson for Verizon, he was an
integral part of the Verizon Foundation’s Literacy Initiative, which gave him the opportunity to travel the country
reading to kids and talking to them about the importance of reading in their lives. He is often called upon to speak
on the subject and regularly lends his name and talent to a variety of endeavors that encourage young readers.
The roots of Jones’ passion for the value of literacy run deep. “In my family, we say the love of reading and book
learning is in our bone memory,” he says about the significance reading has had in his life. “We would never think
of not learning to read and getting an education. My great-great grandparents secretly learned to read when they
were slaves and indentured servants. They passed on their love of reading to my great-grandfather who, as a
free man, amassed a modest library and encouraged his family to read his books and revere them.”
Jones continues, “Growing up, I was mute to the outside world, but there were hundreds of conversations in my
head. And that is the beauty of reading that exists for people to discover. For me, reading was a key to selfpossession…
a treasure that gave me the ability to be my own person. Reading gave me a way to move past my
silence and to live all the vicarious lives through the words I found in books. The written word became my own
private mentor, teaching me and guiding me forward. Through a love of reading, I was able to overcome my
muteness and pursue a career in which my voice would be my most prominent asset.”
Jones has been married since March 1982 to actress Cecilia Hart. Their son, Flynn, is 25.