Broadway theatre owner The Shubert Organization has announced that the 110-year-old Cort Theatre on 138 West 48th Street in New York will be renamed the James Earl Jones Theatre.
The renaming is in recognition of, and tribute to, James Earl Jones’s lifetime of “immense contributions to Broadway and the entire artistic community”, the company said.
Earl Jones’s Broadway career began in 1957, and in 1958 he played his first role at the Cort Theatre in Sunrise at Campobello. Over the following 65 years James Earl Jones has starred in countless stage and screen productions – including twenty-one Broadway shows!
He’s in that exclusive club of EGOT winners (who have won all 4 of a Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award), with his Tonys including Best Actor in a Play for The Great White Hope (1969) and Fences (1987), as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He has additionally won seven Drama Desk Awards and has been awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor.
In London he appeared in the November 2009 production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre, reprising his role as Big Daddy; and in November 2011, he starred alongside Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Whilst in London he was presented with an honorary Oscar in front of the audience at the Wyndham’s Theatre, presented to him by Ben Kingsley. In 2013, Jones once again starred opposite Vanessa Redgrave in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing directed by Mark Rylance at The Old Vic in London.
Earl Jones’s extensive movie credits include Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, Claudine (1974), the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars (1977) and its sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), Conan the Barbarian (1982), Matewan (1987), Coming to America (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), The Sandlot (1993), and The Lion King (1994). In recent years he reprised his voice role of Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith (2005), Rogue One (2016), and The Rise of Skywalker (2019), and has also been featured in the remake of The Lion King (2019) and Coming 2 America (2021).
Robert E. Wankel, Shubert CEO and board chair told the press that: “The Shubert Organization is so incredibly honored to put James—an icon in the theatre community, the Black community, and the American community—forever in Broadway’s lights. That James deserves to have his name immortalized on Broadway is without question.”
James Earl Jones said: “For me standing in this very building sixty-four years ago at the start of my Broadway career, it would have been inconceivable that my name would be on the building today. Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”
The Cort – now the James Earl Jones – Theatre has undergone a renovation over the last two years of the Covid shutdown, including a new wing off of the building’s western face. Building work finishes in the Summer, when the theatre will reopen.
The Cort Theatre opened in 1912, having been designed in the style of an Eighteenth-Century French palace by renowned theatre architect Thomas Lamb to house productions of theatre impresario John Cort. The building was sold to the Shubert brothers in 1927.