James Earl Jones Was An Absolute Hunk When He Was Younger

James Earl Jones is a pop culture fixture, best known for his booming voice, his turn as Mufasa in The Lion King, and voicing Darth Vader (*heavy breathing*) in the Star Wars franchise. The Academy Award-winning actor is larger than life on stage and on screen, and he is one good-looking man, even at 89 years old.

Jones is one of the few stars who've scored the coveted EGOT, having won several Emmys; a Grammy for the children's album Marlo Thomas & Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long; an honorary Oscar; and multiple Tony Awards for his incredible work on Broadway.

But before Jones became a legend, he was just a farm kid in Michigan. Born Jan. 17, 1931, he was raised by his loving grandparents, but the challenges of his youth nearly silenced him forever. Let's take it back to Jones' early days to discover how this handsome young man overcame his afflictions and rose to prominence.

James Earl Jones severely struggled with his voice

Believe it or not, James Earl Jones — with the comforting, powerful voice perfect for narration — had a prominent stutter as a child. It was so intense, in fact, that Jones barely spoke for years. "I didn't want to talk — bad enough that I just gave up," he told NPR. "...it was too painful."

What he could do, however, was help others. "There was another pupil who sat behind me who was also a stutterer and the teacher, who was young, would shake him, and I'd say, 'L-l-lll-l-let me teach him' and I took over his studies, or when he had to talk," Jones recalled, per the Daily Mail. "I understood him. I understood that shaking him was not going to help."

It took a passionate high school teacher, and the act of writing and reciting poetry, for Jones to find his own voice. His teacher "insisted that I read [my poetry] out loud. ... That sort of gave me some confidence in uttering words," he told MLive.

To this day, Jones said his stutter is still part of his life. "I don't say I was 'cured,'" he told NPR. "I just work with it."

Was James Earl Jones an athlete?

James Earl Jones has starred in a number of baseball-centric films — some of the most famous being Field of Dreams and The Sandlot, but did he have athletic ties to the sport in real life?

Jones told MLive that he didn't play baseball, though he used to watch local games on the rural fields in Michigan. He didn't have a team at his school, and he claims he just plain didn't have the talent anyway. "In all the baseball movies I've been in, I've realized one thing. It is impossible to hit a spherical baseball with a tubular stick unless you see the ball as you hit it," he said. "You can't even hit it by accident unless you see the ball as you hit it. And I could never do that."

Jones said athletics were never really this thing. "I was not good at sports. But I ran track," he said. "That's all I could do."

James Earl Jones cleaned toilets before his big break

James Earl Jones studied pre-med at the University of Michigan, but a career as a doctor was not meant to be. He later considered a wide variety of professions, including the Army and even the priesthood, he told MLive. He eventually set his sights on a career in theater, but life was not easy. Jones needed a nighttime side hustle in order to act during the day, so he began working as a janitor at off-Broadway shows.

"I cleaned a lot of toilets," Jones recalled to NPR. "Some of the most famous off-Broadway theaters you can imagine, I washed the toilets in those places. I polished those toilets shiny."

In 1968, Jones got his "big break" in the play The Great White Hope, in which he played a boxer battling racism. He won a Tony for his portrayal of Jack Jefferson, and later starred in the film adaptation, receiving an Oscar nomination for his role.

Of course, that was just the beginning. Jones' legendary career spans decades, and his voice is renowned around the world. "I think I'm very fortunate that I can earn a living doing something that I really find enjoyable," he told NPR. "I'd like to keep doing it."