James Earl Jones marks 90th birthday with return

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There will be cake. James Earl Jones will be celebrating his landmark 90th birthday in appropriate style from his home in upstate New York on Sunday.

“I will keep having to remind myself that it’s my birthday,” Jones writes in an email to USA TODAY, adding that on the special day, “I’ll make an exception and enjoy a slice of strawberry shortcake, my favorite!”

Jones said he’s “feeling fantastic and grateful at 90 years old. Looking back at my life and extensive career, I am so proud of my work and accomplishments. I love growing older and wiser with time.”

The legendary actor of the Broadway stage and screen, with the iconic, commanding voice, has made vocal appearances with two of his most famous characters in recent years — king of the Pride Lands, Mufasa, in 2019’s “Lion King” remake and as Lord Vader in 2019’s “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.”

James Earl Jones:Is fine, says ‘Lion King’ director Jon Favreau

When Jones did not appear at the 2019 Los Angeles premiere of “The Lion King,” fans expressed worry, but director Jon Favreau assured everyone the actor was fine.

The Oscar-nominated Jones will make his next acting appearance as King Jaffe Joffer in “Coming 2 America” (streaming March 5), the King of (fictional) Zamunda and father to Prince Hakeem (Eddie Murphy).

Director Craig Brewer told USA TODAY that when Jones appeared on the Atlanta set, pre-pandemic, to shoot his role, it was like real royalty visiting.

“When James Earl Jones came on set we were very quiet and very reverential,” said Brewer. “And then (costume designer) Ruth Carter broke the ice and said, ‘James Earl Jones ladies and gentlemen!’ The whole crew just applauded and this smile came to his face.”

James Earl Jones has voiced Darth Vader, is the voice of the CNN tagline "This is CNN," Mufasa in "The Lion King" and recorded "James Earl Jones Reads the Bible: King James Version."

Jones writes that he was “honored” to return to the role from the 1988 original comedy “Coming to America.” and “touched by their reaction. Being on set brought back the wonderful memories. And to see so many familiar faces again was pure joy.”

As far as life lessons gleaned from turning 90, Jones said it’s all about experience in terms of getting through tough times.

“I can say that those of us who have lived 90 years have no right to be surprised,”  Jones wrote. 

He vowed to pray for better times ahead in the next year with his birthday wish: “In order for us to heal and move forward, we need to learn to love and respect each other. That will be my wish when I blow out my birthday candles.”

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