james-earl-jones_web.jpgLOS ANGELES (AP) — The first Academy Award of the season went to the voice of two of film's most memorable fathers — Mufasa in The Lion King and Darth Vader in the Star Wars trilogy — but James Earl Jones says he shouldn't even be an actor.

“One, because I'm a stutterer,” said the deep-voiced star who was honored for his nearly five decades in film.

“And two,'' he continued, “my introduction to motion pictures was sitting on a bench in Mississippi watching a movie on a makeshift screen, a sheet stretched between two stores, and when a fistfight broke out on screen on that sheet, I freaked out. I couldn't handle the violence, so I hid under the bench and begged people to make them stop, and they didn't. They just watched.

“I guess I said if I can't stop them, I better join them.”

Join them he did, making his big-screen debut in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 classic, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

“When Darth Vader first spoke on film, I denied it was me,” said the thespian who has appeared in scores of movies, plays and TV shows. “I had good reason: I thought it was special effects.”

He accepted his honorary Oscar from London's Wyndham Theater on Saturday where he is starring in Driving Miss Daisy with Vanessa Redgrave.

Sir Ben Kingsley presented Jones with the Oscar. Dick Smith and Oprah Winfrey were on hand at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ third annual Governors Awards in Los Angeles to receive their statuettes; Smith also for a long film career, and Winfrey for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

The 80-year-old said he's “deeply honored” and “mighty grateful. Asked to compare stage, screen and voice acting, Jones said, “I love it all. I even love commercials.”

Photo: James Earl Jones