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James Earl Jones attends a gala at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum.)

James Earl Jones is 86 today. The Force is strong with this one.


James Earl Jones is 86 today. The Force is strong with this one.

WATCH | Celebrating his 86th birthday Jan. 17, James Earl Jones is a force of nature on and off the set.

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Born January 17, 1931, Jones is the kind of guy anyone would cast to deliver authority and gravitas. It's almost impossible imagining anyone else voicing Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" movies, or Mufasa in "The Lion King."

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

His "Field of Dreams" monologue is the Gettysburg Address of baseball: "America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers ... but baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again."

Smalls and Benny knock on Mr. Mertle's door

He holds such stature, we'd be as nervous as the "Sandlot" kids if we had to reclaim a ball from his yard. (But perhaps we'd have nothing to fear if all we needed to do is knock on his door.)

This is CNN (2002)

We're not entirely sure we're watching CNN until Jones assures us that, indeed, "This is CNN."

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He's funny, too: He's the perfect straight man counterpart to Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in "Coming to America."

Letterman's Top 10 Words spoken by James Earl Jones

His "Top 10 words that sound great when spoken by James Earl Jones" is the stuff of "Late Night" legend.

Overcoming a childhood stutter, he advocates for the Stuttering Association for the Young.

A legacy of service

He's also told campfire stories to kids with HIV, helped feed the hungry, and built houses, according to The New York Times. When the Times references this service, Jones said, "I don't think there's any other purpose to life."

That's not the only way he's served: In the '50s, he ascended to the Army rank of first lieutenant.

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He then became a Shakespearean mainstay after playing the title role in a 1955 staging of "Othello." Jones later won a Tony and earned an Academy Award nomination for theatrical and film versions of "The Great White Hope."

James Earl Jones receives an Honorary Award at the 2011 Governors Awards

He's also won another Tony, three Emmys, a Golden Globe and an honorary Academy Award, which he cheerfully accepted while performing on the West End in London. "If an actor's nightmare is being onstage buck naked and not knowing his lines," he said, "what the heck do you call this?"

He's not done: His films "Atlas of the Soul" and "Warning Shot" are set for release this year.

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