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James Earl Jones to receive honorary Oscar Award

Get more: Oscars, Celeb Lives
11/12/2011 by Olivia Allin

James Earl Jones has spent over fifty years lending his deep voice and impeccable on-screen gravitas to his roles and now the veteran actor will receive an honorary Oscar.

Jones told Variety magazine that he and his wife were "jumping up and down, and giggling" when they heard the news.

"What's wonderful about it is I didn't have to fight for it, I didn't have to campaign for it. They don't have to say 'James Earl Jones, winner!' I didn't win it, I earned it... At least, I hope I did."

Jones is set to receive the award on Saturday at the Governors Awards in Los Angeles, but said he will participate by video since he is currently in London for a Broadway production of "Driving Miss Daisy" opposite Vanessa Redgrave.

Jones is perhaps best known for his roles in "Field of Dreams," "The Sandlot," "Coming to America" and for voicing legendary characters like Darth Vader in "Star Wars" and Mufasa in "The Lion King."

When recalling how he landed his Darth Vader role, Jones said, "I was broke that summer, and I was offered a job to record some words that didn't have to be lip-synched. My agent said, 'Jimmy, you want a day's work?' and I said, 'Yeah, give it to me!'"

Director George Lucas was less casual about the decision, after passing on Orson Welles for the role, he said he knew he found it in Jones.

"Once I told him what I wanted, that it didn't need to be mechanical and that I wanted it to have some emotion, but not be overly emotional, he found that sweet spot," Lucas remembers. "He gave it depth and rounded the character out simply with the power of his voice and his acting abilities."

Jones told Variety that he realized early on that he needed to be open to film, radio, TV and commercials in order to support his family and though he has often portrayed noble characters, the actor said he prefers the everyday guy.

"I like what Shakespeare called 'the elemental men' -- the men who have no sophistication to hide anything they really are," Jones told Variety. "And if I play an admiral, I try to boil him down to his essence too, so he's also an elemental man, as best I can."

Jones' former co-stars harped on the actor's humility, kindness and gentleness.

"The idea of behaving like a star is a terrible waste of time and a terrible waste of feeling," Jones said.

The 80-year-old actor was nominated for an Oscar for his leading role in the 1970 film "The Great White Hope," which had been adapted from the stage and earned Jones a Tony Award. Jones was only the second black actor to be honored with an Oscar nomination at the time.

Jones won two Emmy Awards in 1991 for his roles in "Heat Wave" and "Gabriel's Fire." He was nominated for eight Emmys in total. He was also nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, taking one home in 1971 in the now-defunct Most Promising Newcomer category for his role in "The Great White Hope."

Jones is still busy, performing "Driving Miss Daisy" in London and recently wrapping "Gimme Shelter," which stars Vanessa Hudgens and Rosario Dawson. But despite his illustrious career, Jones is still waiting for his big role.

"Even at my age, I haven't done the film yet that I can say, 'This is my legacy on film.' I'm still looking for it."

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