James Earl Jones is to be honored at this year’s Tony Awards with a special prize for lifetime achievement in theater.
The awards administration committee announced Thursday that Mr. Jones, a renowned stage, film and television actor with an unforgettably deep voice, would be given the recognition at the awards ceremony June 11.
Mr. Jones, 86, is a theater regular who has appeared in 20 Broadway plays, starting with “Sunrise at Campobello” in 1958. He most recently appeared in a revival of “The Gin Game” in 2015. He has won two Tonys, in 1969 for “The Great White Hope” (when Clive Barnes, a New York Times critic, wrote, “If anyone deserves to become that occasional thing, a star overnight, then Mr. Jones deserves no less”) and in 1987 for “Fences.” About that performance, Frank Rich, a critic for The Times, wrote, “A black man, a free man, a descendant of slaves, a menial laborer, a father, a husband, a lover — Mr. Jones’s Troy embraces all the contradictions of being black and male and American in his time.”
He has performed in multiple television shows, like “The Guiding Light” and “Roots,” and many films, like “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Lion King.” But he is best known as the voice of Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” films.
The Tony Awards previously announced two other honorary prizes: Baayork Lee, an actress, choreographer and director who founded the National Asian Artists Project and is best known as a member of the original cast of “A Chorus Line,” will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award, which recognizes volunteerism, while two longtime general managers, Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser, will receive Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater.
The Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, honor plays and musicals that are staged on Broadway each season. This year’s award nominees will be announced next Tuesday, May 2.