Leonard Simon Nimoy ( /ˈniːmɔɪ/ nee-moy; born March 26, 1931) is an American actor, film director, poet, musician and photographer. Nimoy's most famous role is that of Spock in the original Star Trek series (1966–1969), multiple films, television and video game sequels.
Nimoy began his career in his early twenties, teaching acting classes in Hollywood and making minor film and television appearances through the 1950s, as well as playing the title role in Kid Monk Baroni. In 1953, he served in the United States Army. In 1965, he made his first appearance in the rejected Star Trek pilot, "The Cage", and would go on to play the character of Mr. Spock until 1969, followed by seven further feature films and a number of guest slots in various sequels. His character of Spock generated a significant cultural impact and threeEmmy Award nominations; TV Guide named Spock one of the 50 greatest TV characters. Nimoy also had a recurring role in Mission: Impossible and a narrating role in Civilization IV, as well as several well-received stage appearances.
Nimoy was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Ukraine. His father, Max Nimoy, owned a barbershop in the Mattapan section of the city. His mother, Dora Nimoy (née Spinner), was a homemaker. Nimoy began acting at the age of eight in children's and neighborhood theater. His parents wanted him to attend college and pursue a stable career, or even learn to play the accordion—which, his father advised, Nimoy could always make a living with—but his grandfather encouraged him to become an actor. His first major role was at 17, as Ralphie in an amateur production of Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing!. Nimoy took Drama classes at Boston College in 1953 but failed to complete his studies, and in the 1970s studied photography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has an MA in Education and an honorary doctorate from Antioch University in Ohio.
Nimoy's film and television acting career began in 1951, but after receiving the title role in the 1952 film Kid Monk Baroni, a story about a street punk turned professional boxer, he played more than 50 small parts in B movies, TV shows such as Dragnet, and serials such as Republic Pictures' Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952). To support his family Nimoy often worked other jobs, such as delivering newspapers in the morning.
He played an Army sergeant in the 1954 science fiction thriller, Them!, a professor in the 1958 science fiction movie The Brain Eaters, and had a role in The Balcony (1963), a film adaptation of the Jean Genet play. Together with Vic Morrow, he produced a 1966 version of Deathwatch, a English language film version of Genet's play Haute Surveillance, adapted and directed by Morrow and starring Nimoy.
On television Nimoy appeared as "Sonarman" in two episodes of the 1957–1958 syndicated military drama, The Silent Service, based on actual events of the submarine section of the United States Navy. He had guest roles in the Sea Hunt series from 1958 to 1960 and had a minor role in The Twilight Zone episode "A Quality of Mercy" in 1961. He also appeared inHighway Patrol. Throughout the 1960s Nimoy appeared in a number of other TV series including Bonanza (1960), Two Faces West (1961), The Untouchables (1962), The Eleventh Hour(1962), Combat! (1963, 1965), Perry Mason (1963), The Outer Limits (1964), The Virginian (1965) and Get Smart (1966). He appeared again in the 1995 Outer Limits, again in the episode "I, Robot".
Nimoy and William Shatner first worked together in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., "The Project Strigas Affair" (1964). Their characters were from either side of the Iron Curtain, though with his saturnine looks, Nimoy was predictably the villain, with Shatner playing a reluctant U.N.C.L.E. recruit.
|“||For the first time I had a job that lasted longer than two weeks and a dressing room with my name painted on the door and not chalked on||”|
—Nimoy, on being cast as Spock
Nimoy's greatest prominence came from his role in the original Star Trek series. As the half-Vulcan, half-human Spock—a role he chose instead of one on the soap opera Peyton Place—Nimoy became a star, and the press predicted that he would "have his choice of movies or television series." He formed a long-standing friendship with Shatner, who portrayed his commanding officer, saying of their relationship, "We were like brothers." The series ran from 1966 to 1969, and Nimoy earned three Emmy acting nominations for his work.
He went on to reprise Spock's character in a voice-over role in Star Trek: The Animated Series, in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and in six Star Trek motion pictures featuring the original cast. He played an older Spock in the 2009 Star Trek movie directed byJ. J. Abrams.
Spock's Vulcan salute became a recognized symbol of the show identified with him. Nimoy created the sign himself from his childhood memories of the way kohanim (Jewish priests) held their hand when giving blessings. During an interview, he translated the Priestly Blessing which accompanied the sign and described it during a public lecture:
- May the Lord bless and keep you and may the Lord cause his countenance to shine upon you. May the Lord be gracious unto you and grant you peace.
Nimoy was asked to read these verses as part of his narration for Civilization IV.
Following the cancellation of the original Star Trek in 1969, Nimoy immediately joined the cast of the spy series Mission: Impossible, which was seeking a replacement for Martin Landau. Nimoy was cast as an IMF agent who was an ex-magician and make-up expert, 'The Great Paris'. He played the role from 1969 to 1971, on the fourth and fifth seasons of the show.
He co-starred with Yul Brynner and Richard Crenna in the Western movie Catlow (1971). Nimoy appeared in various made for television films such as Assault on the Wayne (1970), Baffled (1972), The Alpha Caper (1973), The Missing Are Deadly (1974), Seizure: The Story Of Kathy Morris (1980), and Marco Polo (1982). He received an Emmy award nomination for best supporting actor for the TV film A Woman Called Golda (1982). He also had roles in Night Gallery (1972) and Columbo (1973) where he played a murderous doctor who was one of the few criminals with whom Columbo became angry.
In the late 1970s, he hosted and narrated the television series In Search of..., which investigated paranormal or unexplained events or subjects. He also has a memorable character part as a psychiatrist in Philip Kaufman's remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
During this time, Nimoy also won acclaim for a series of stage roles. He appeared in such plays as Vincent, Fiddler on the Roof, The Man in the Glass Booth, Oliver!, Six Rms Riv Vu, Full Circle[disambiguation needed], Camelot, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The King and I,Caligula, The Four Poster, Twelfth Night, Sherlock Holmes, Equus and My Fair Lady.
When a new Star Trek series series was planned in the late 1970s, Nimoy was to be in only two out of every eleven episodes, but when the show was elevated to a feature film, he agreed to reprise his role. After directing a few television show episodes, Nimoy started film directing in 1984 with the third installment of the film series. Nimoy would go on to direct the second most successful film (critically and financially) in the franchise after the 2009 Star Trek film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Three Men and a Baby, the highest grossing film of 1987, made him a star director. At a press conference promoting the 2009 Star Trek movie, Nimoy made it clear that he had no further plans or ambition to direct:
No. No, I'm done with all that, thank you. I never set out to be a director. After Spock had died, sort of, in Star Trek II, they brought me in for a meeting and asked if I'd like to be involved in Star Trek III, in the making of it, and I had been told that I should be directing. I took it as an insult because I thought, "what's wrong with my acting?" But I thought maybe now I should do that and I said I'd like to direct the movie, and I suddenly found myself with a directing career which I had enjoyed and I had enough of it. I directed I think five or six films — I had a good time.===Other work after Star Trek===
In 1978, Nimoy played Dr. David Kibner in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He also did occasional work as a voice actor in animated feature films, including the character of Galvatron in The Transformers: The Movie in 1986.
In 1991, Nimoy teamed up with Robert B. Radnitz to produce a movie for TNT about a pro bono publico lawsuit brought by public interest attorney William John Cox on behalf of Mel Mermelstein, an Auschwitz survivor, against a group of organizations engaged in Holocaust denial. Nimoy also played the Mermelstein role and believes: "If every project brought me the same sense of fulfillment that Never Forget did, I would truly be in paradise."
From 1994 until 1998, Nimoy narrated the Ancient Mysteries series on A&E including "The Sacred Water of Lourdes" and "Secrets of the Romanovs". He also appeared in advertising in the United Kingdom for the computer company Time Computers in the late 1990s. In 1997, Nimoy played the prophet Samuel, alongside Nathaniel Parker, in The Bible Collection movie "David". He had a central role in Brave New World, a 1998 TV-movie version of Aldous Huxley's novel where he played a character reminiscent of Spock in his philosophical balancing of unpredictable human qualities with the need for control. Nimoy has also appeared in several popular television series — including Futurama and The Simpsons — as both himself and Spock.
Nimoy appeared in Hearts of Space program number 142 – "Whales alive."
In 2000, he provided on-camera hosting and introductions for 45 half-hour episodes of an anthology series entitled Our 20th Century on the AEN TV Network. The series covers world news, sports, entertainment, technology, and fashion using original archive news clips from 1930 to 1975 from the National Archives in Washington D.C. and other private archival sources.
In 2003, he announced his retirement from acting to concentrate on photography, but subsequently appeared in several television commercials with William Shatner for Priceline.com. He appeared in a commercial for Aleve, an arthritis pain medication, which aired during the 2006 Super Bowl.
Nimoy provided a comprehensive series of voiceovers for the 2005 computer game Civilization IV. He did the TV series Next Wave where he interviewed people about technology. He is the host in the documentary film The Once and Future Griffith Observatory currently running in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater located at the recently reopened Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.
In January 2007, he granted an interview to Fat Free Film, where he discussed his early career and the benefits of being typecast.
Nimoy was given casting approval over who would play the young Spock in the newest film.
In May 2009, he made an appearance as the mysterious Dr. William Bell in the season finale of Fringe, which explores the existence of a parallel universe. Nimoy returned as Dr. Bell in the autumn for an extended arc, and according to Roberto Orci, co-creator of Fringe, Bell will be "the beginning of the answers to even bigger questions." This choice led one reviewer to question if Fringe's plot might be a homage to the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror", which featured an alternate reality "Mirror Universe" concept and an evil version of Spock distinguished by a goatee.
On the May 9, 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live, Nimoy appeared as a surprise guest on the skit "Weekend Update". During a mock interview, Nimoy called old Trekkies who did not like the new movie "dickheads". In the 2009 Star Trek movie, he plays the older Spock from the original Star Trek timeline; Zachary Quinto portrays the young Spock.
Starring with Will Ferrell in the TV-based movie Land of the Lost in June 2009, he voiced the part of "The Zarn", an Altrusian.
Nimoy is also a frequent and popular reader for "Selected Shorts", an ongoing series of programs at Symphony Space in New York City (that also tours around the country) which features actors, and sometimes authors, reading works of short fiction. The programs are broadcast on radio and available on websites through Public Radio International, National Public Radio and WNYC radio. Nimoy was honored by Symphony Space with the renaming of the Thalia Theater as the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater.
Nimoy has also provided voiceovers for the Star Trek Online massively multiplayer online game, released in February 2010, as well asKingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as the villainous Master Xehanort. Tetsuya Nomura, the director of Birth by Sleep, stated that he chose Nimoy for the role specifically because of his role as Spock.
In April 2010, Leonard Nimoy announced that he is retiring from playing the signature character of Star Trek's Spock, citing both his advanced age and the desire to give Zachary Quintothe opportunity to enjoy full media attention with the Spock character. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep was to be his final performance. However, in February 2011, he announced his definite plan to return to Fringe and reprise his role as William Bell. His retirement from acting has not included voice acting, as his appearance in the third season of Fringe only includes his voice (his character only appears in animated scenes), and he provided the voice of Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. In May 2011 Nimoy starred in the alternate version music video of Bruno Mars' The Lazy Song. Nimoy revealed that he violated his retirement decision after Aaron Bay-Schuck, the Atlantic Records executive who signed Bruno Mars to the label and Nimoy's stepson, asked him to participate in the video.
Nimoy's interest in photography began in childhood; he still owns a camera which he rebuilt at the age of 13. His photography studies at UCLA occurred after Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, when Nimoy seriously considered changing careers. His work has been exhibited at the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
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Nimoy has written two autobiographies. The first was called I Am Not Spock (1977) and was controversial, as many fans incorrectly assumed that Nimoy was distancing himself from the Spock character. In the book, Nimoy conducts dialogues between himself and Spock. The contents of this first autobiography also touched on a self-proclaimed "identity crisis" that seemed to haunt Nimoy throughout his career. It also related to an apparent love/hate relationship with the character of Spock and the Trek franchise.
|“||I went through a definite identity crisis. The question was whether to embrace Mr. Spock or to fight the onslaught of public interest. I realize now that I really had no choice in the matter. Spock and Star Trek were very much alive and there wasn’t anything that I could do to change that.||”|
His second autobiography was I Am Spock (1995), communicating that he finally realized his years of portraying the Spock character had led to a much greater identification between the fictional character and himself. Nimoy had much input into how Spock would act in certain situations, and conversely, Nimoy's contemplation of how Spock acted gave him cause to think about things in a way that he never would have thought if he had not portrayed the character. As such, in this autobiography Nimoy maintains that in some meaningful sense he has merged with Spock while at the same time maintaining the distance between fact and fiction.
Nimoy has also written several volumes of poetry, some published along with a number of his photographs. His latest effort is titled A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life(2002). His poetry can be found in the Contemporary Poets index of The HyperTexts. In the mid-1970s Nimoy wrote and starred in a one-man play called Vincent based on the playVan Gogh by Phillip Stephens.
In 1995, Nimoy was involved in the production of Primortals, a comic book series published by Tekno Comix that involved a first contact situation with aliens, which had arisen from a discussion he had with Isaac Asimov. There was a novelization by Steve Perry.
During and following Star Trek, Nimoy also released five albums of vocal recordings on Dot Records, including Trek-related songs such as "Highly Illogical", and cover versions of popular tunes, such as "Proud Mary". In regards to how his recording career got started, he stated:
Charles Grean of Dot Records had arranged with the studio to do an album of space music based on music from Star Trek, and he has a teenage daughter who's a fan of the show and a fan of Mr. Spock. She said, 'Well, if you're going to do an album of music from Star Trek, then Mr. Spock should be on the album.' So Dot contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in either speaking or singing on the record. I said I was very interested in doing both. ...That was the first album we did, which was called Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space. It was very well-received and successful enough that Dot then approached me and asked me to sign a long-term contract.—Leonard Nimoy, Madenwine website
The albums were popular and resulted in numerous live appearances and promotional record signings that attracted crowds of fans in the thousands. The early recordings were produced by Charles Grean, who may be best known for his version of "Quentin's Theme" from the mid-sixties goth soap opera Dark Shadows. These recordings are generally regarded as unintentionally camp, though his tongue-in-cheek performance of "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" received a fair amount of airplay when Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films were released.
In addition to his own music career he directed a 1985 music video for The Bangles' "Going Down to Liverpool". He makes a brief cameo appearance in the video as their driver. This came about because his son Adam Nimoy (now a frequent television director) was a friend of Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs from college. He released a version of Johnny Cash's song "I Walk the Line".
Nimoy's voice appeared in sampled form on a song by the pop band Information Society in the late Eighties. The song, "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)" (released in 1988), reached #3 on the US Pop charts, and #1 on Dance charts. The group's self-titled LP contains several other samples from the original Star Trek television series.
Nimoy also appears in the alternate music video for the song "Lazy Song" by pop artist Bruno Mars.
Nimoy has long been active in the Jewish community, and he can speak and read Yiddish. In 1997, he narrated the documentary A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, about the various sects of Hasidic Orthodox Jews. In October 2002, Nimoy published The Shekhina Project, a photographic study exploring the feminine aspect of God's presence, inspired by Kabbalah.
Nimoy has been married twice. In 1954, he married actress Sandra Zober (1927–2011), whom he divorced in 1987. He had two children with her, director Adam Nimoy and Julie Nimoy, who both appeared in an Oldsmobile commercial, with the tagline "This is not your father's Oldsmobile". In 1988, he married actress Susan Bay, who is a cousin of directorMichael Bay.
In a 2001 DVD, Nimoy revealed that he became an alcoholic while working on Star Trek and ended up in rehab. Also in William Shatner's 2008 book Up Till Now: The Autobiography, Shatner speaks about how later in their lives Nimoy tried to help Shatner's alcoholic wife.
Nimoy still has the last pair of Spock's ears he wore on the series, as a memento. He has said that the character of Spock, which he played twelve to fourteen hours a day, five days a week, influenced his personality in private life. Each weekend during the original run of the series, he would be in character throughout Saturday and into Sunday, behaving more like Spock than himself more logical, more rational, more thoughtful, less emotional and finding a calm in every situation. It was only on Sunday in the early afternoon that Spock's influence on his behavior would fade off and he would feel more himself again – only to start the cycle over Monday morning.
Nimoy also introduced the Vulcan nerve pinch in an early Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within". Initially, Spock was supposed to knock out an evil Kirk in the Engineering room by striking him on the back of the head. Nimoy felt that the action was not in keeping with the nature of Spock's character, so he suggested the "pinch" as a non-violent alternative, suggesting that Vulcans have the ability to emit energy from their fingertips, which, if applied to the correct nerve cluster, could render a human unconscious. Nimoy explained this to the episode's director and according to Nimoy, the director had no idea what he was talking about. However, Nimoy would express relief in later interviews and appearances that when he explained the concept to William Shatner, he got it immediately, and Nimoy credits Shatner's reaction to the nerve pinch in the episode as what really sold the neck pinch. In early scripts for Star Trek, the nerve pinch was referred to as the "F.S.N.P.," which stood for "Famous Spock Neck Pinch."
He has remained good friends with co-star William Shatner (also of Ukrainian-Jewish descent) and was best man at Shatner's third marriage in 1997. Shatner is only four days older than Nimoy. He also remained good friends with DeForest Kelley until Kelley's death in 1999.
The Space Foundation named Nimoy as the recipient of the 2010 Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award for creating a positive role model that inspired untold numbers of viewers to learn more about the universe. An honor Nimoy did not receive, however, was the naming of asteroid 2309 Mr. Spock after his character, at least not directly. The asteroid was named by discoverer James B. Gibson after his pet cat, "Mr. Spock," said feline indeed being named after the Star Trek character.