The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced today that two-time Tony Award winner and icon of stage and screen James Earl Jones will be this year’s recipient of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
Jones made his Broadway debut in 1958’s Sunrise At Campobello and would win two Tony Awards, for The Great White Hope (1969) and Fences (1987). A larger-than-life figure in theater, television and film for over half a century Jones also was Tony nominated for On Golden Pond (2005) and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (2012). Recent Broadway appearances include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Driving Miss Daisy and You Can’t Take It With You.
“When I came to New York to study acting, my father – the actor Robert Earl Jones – took me on a ‘Grand Tour,’ ” Jones said in announcing the award. “The first night was to the opera Tosca starring Leontyne Price. I loved the singing, but I didn’t understand the format of opera. The second night was Swan Lake starring Margot Fonteyn. The movement of the bodies just seemed like magic. The third night was Pal Joey. I was captivated by the warmth of the light on stage. I was not inspired to sing and dance, but I knew I wanted to be in the warmth of the stage light. The fourth night was Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. By contrast, it created a cold world, coldness between human beings, but the ideas that Arthur Miller was able to evoke onstage were blazing hot. I knew I wanted to be a part of this and to explore the stage,” Jones said.
“James Earl Jones has given us a lifetime of unforgettable performances on the stage, and his voice resonates through generations,” Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, which jointly present the awards, said in the announcement. Referring to his renown for both his acting skills and the penetrating bass-baritone rumble he deployed as Darth Vader in the Star Wars films, they added that his “legacy is unmatched and his work has had an impact not only on Broadway but across the entire galaxy!”
The 71st Tony Awards, hosted by Kevin Spacey, will air live from Radio City Music Hall on the CBS Television Network on June 11 beginning at 8 P.M.