James Earl Jones facts: Actor's age, movies, wife, children and career explained

22 February 2024, 15:56

James Earl Jones in 2015
James Earl Jones in 2015. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

James Earl Jones is one of the most celebrated and versatile actors of our time.

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With a career spanning over six decades, he has captivated audiences with his powerful voice and compelling performances on stage, screen, and radio.

From his iconic role as Darth Vader in the Star Wars saga to his unforgettable portrayal of Mufasa in The Lion King, Jones has left an unforgettable mark on the history of cinema and pop culture.

He has also earned acclaim and recognition for his work in theatre, winning three Tony Awards and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has also received numerous honours for his contributions to the arts and society, including the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honor, and the Honorary Academy Award.

Coming to America (1988) - A King in New York

Having grappled with a stutter since childhood, Jones has expressed how poetry and acting served as pivotal tools in overcoming the hurdles posed by his disability. Initially a pre-med student in college, he later enlisted in the United States Army during the Korean War, eventually embarking on a journey into the realm of acting.

Since his inaugural appearance on Broadway in 1957, Jones has showcased his talents across numerous Shakespearean productions, including Othello, Hamlet, Coriolanus, and King Lear. His theatrical career gained momentum with his portrayal in The Great White Hope, earning him his maiden Tony Award in 1968. This success translated onto the silver screen with the 1970 film adaptation, garnering him nominations for both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

Jones's acclaim on Broadway continued to soar, clinching his second Tony Award in 1987 for his performance in August Wilson's Fences. Throughout the years, he received Tony nominations for notable roles in productions such as On Golden Pond (2005) and The Best Man (2012).

  1. How old is James Earl Jones and where was he born?

    James Earl Jones
    James Earl Jones. Picture: Getty

    James Earl Jones was born on January 17, 1931, making him 93 years old as of 2024.

    He was born in Arkabutla, Mississippi, United States.

    His parents were Robert Earl Jones and Ruth Jones (nee Connolly). His father was a boxer, actor, butler, and chauffeur, while his mother was a teacher and maid. Both of his parents were of mixed African-American, Irish, and Native American ancestry.

    His father left the family shortly after James's birth.

    He also has a younger brother named Matthew Earl Jones, who is also an actor and producer. James Earl Jones was raised mainly by his maternal grandparents, who were farmers in Mississippi.

    His father passed away in 2006 aged 96, while his mother died in 1986, aged 75.

  2. How did he get his start in acting?

    James Earl Jones Smoking a Cigar
    James Earl Jones Smoking a Cigar. Picture: Getty

    James Earl Jones initially pursued acting while attending the University of Michigan.

    He later honed his craft at the American Theatre Wing in New York City. Jones made his Broadway debut in 1957 in the play The Egghead by Molly Kazan. This marked the beginning of his illustrious career in acting.

  3. What are his most famous movie roles?

    Field of Dreams (5/9) Movie CLIP - People Will Come (1989) HD

    James Earl Jones has starred in many films over a 60-year career. Some of his most famous movie roles are:

    Darth Vader (voice) in the Star Wars franchise. He first voiced the iconic villain in the original 1977 film and reprised the role in several sequels and spin-offs.

    Mufasa (voice) in The Lion King. He voiced the wise and noble king of the Pride Lands in the 1994 animated classic and its 2019 remake.

    Terence Mann in Field of Dreams. He played a reclusive author who helps a farmer (Kevin Costner) build a baseball field in his cornfield.

    Admiral Greer in The Hunt for Red October. He played a CIA director who assists a Soviet submarine captain (Sean Connery) defect to the US with a stealth nuclear warhead.

    Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian. Opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, he played a powerful and evil sorcerer who leads a snake cult and kills Conan’s parents.

    King Jaffe Joffer in Coming to America. He played the wealthy and strict king of Zamunda, who tries to arrange a marriage for his son (Eddie Murphy) who flees to America to find his own bride.

    Mr. Mertle in The Sandlot. He played a blind and reclusive man who owns a ferocious dog and a valuable baseball signed by Babe Ruth.

  4. Is James Earl Jones married and does he have children?

    James Earl Jones and wife Cecilia Hart in 2016
    James Earl Jones and wife Cecilia Hart in 2016. Picture: Getty

    James Earl Jones has been married twice and has one child.

    His first wife was Julienne Marie, an actress whom he married in 1968 and divorced in 1972.

    His second wife was Cecilia Hart, also an actress, whom he married in 1982 and remained with until her death in 2016.

    He has a son named Flynn Earl Jones, who is also an actor and producer.

    James Earl Jones with wife Cecilia and son Flynn in 2010
    James Earl Jones with wife Cecilia and son Flynn in 2010. Picture: Getty