Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Simon Nimoy was born in Boston, MA. The son of Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants Max and Dora Nimoy, young Leonard began acting when he was just eight years old. At the age of 17, Nimoy landed his first major role as Ralphie in Clifford Odets's "Awake and Sing." Nimoy's earliest features were singularly undistinguished, including the serial "Zombies of the Stratosphere" and "Francis G s to West Point" (both 1952), which continued the thrilling adventures of the famed talking mule. Nimoy did, however, do his level best in the title role of a low-budget boxing flick with religious overtones, "Kid Monk Baroni" (1952). After serving a brief stint in the U.S. Army Reserve, Nimoy returned to acting in the mid-1950s, receiving training under esteemed dramatic coach, Jeff Corey. For the next several years, Nimoy eked out a living with sporadic TV guest appearances and stage roles - including as Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" in Atlanta.Nimoy's most celebrated role however was that of the emotionless, half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock on "Star Trek." His character's iconic status was doubtlessly indebted to its clever conception: Spock was a half alien who dedicated himself to the pursuit of logic, yet could be bedeviled by moments of "all too human" emotion. The role of Spock was a tall order to be sure, but Nimoy's thoughtful acting proved more than equal to the challenge. Hiding behind an expressive - often amusing - deadpan mask, Nimoy's Spock spoke volumes to legions of "Star Trek" fans. Still, despite its cult popularity, "Star Trek" barely hung on in the ratings. By its third season, the show's once smart scripts and thought-provoking themes of tolerance and science as our saving grace had fallen victim to drastically slashed budgets. The show was eventually scuttled after the 1968-69 season.Even so, Nimoy was luckier than most of his "Trek" colleagues. After "Star Trek" was canceled, Nimoy was tapped to replace Martin Landau in the fourth season of the still-popular "Mission: Impossible" (CBS, 1966-1973). As the Indomitable Paris, Nimoy took over as the team's resident master of disguise and illusionist for two seasons. He left the show after two seasons, however, due to exhaustion. Following a brief respite, Nimoy returned to television as the narrator and host of the paranormal documentary series, "In Search Of" (NBC, 1976-1982). Around this time, Nimoy also began to explore a second career as a director. After helming an episode of "Rod Serling's Night Gallery" (NBC, 1970-73) in the early 1970s, Nimoy established a reputation as a reliable television director. To keep his feet wet acting-wise, Nimoy concurrently appeared in a string of TV movies and miniseries, ranging from the silly - as in the case of 1973's "Baffled!" - to the lavish, but middling - such as 1982's "Marco Polo."In the late 1970s, Nimoy landed his best known non-"Trek" feature role as Dr. David Kibner in director Philip Kaufman's feature thriller, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978). A worthy remake of the 1956 sci-fi classic, Nimoy's turn as a touchy-feely, new age pop psychologist was an inspired bit of casting - a tongue-in-cheek nod to the emotionless Spock character he played so well, for so long. Meanwhile, as Nimoy's career chugged along, "Star Trek" began to enjoy an enormous resurgence in popularity. Owing to its renaissance to reruns, the demand for new "Star Trek" project exploded. Following the unprecedented success of Twentieth Century Fox's "Star Wars" (1977), Paramount quickly put a "Star Trek" feature on the fast-track. Unfortunately, before filming could commence, the studio had to first overcome a major hurdle - Nimoy, himself.During the mid-1970s, Nimoy and his former employer, Paramount Studios, became embroiled in a long-standing and bitter feud over the use of Nimoy's likeness with regard to "Trek" merchandising. Unwilling to reprise his role for the "Star Trek" feature until that was resolved, Nimoy played hardball. Proving his business savvy, Nimoy promptly received a long-overdue apology, a handsome settlement, and a $1 million payday from the studio. The result was "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979), the uneven but extremely successful first installment of the "Trek" film franchise. Nimoy subsequently returned to his most famous role for five sequels. Although he requested that his character be killed off at the end of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), the actor was persuaded to resurrect the character two years later for its follow-up, "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984). Perhaps the studio promising him a chance to direct the third installment did the trick. To the delight of Trekkies the world over, Nimoy made a highly anticipated appearance at film's end, after Spock had been portrayed by a variety of actors of varying ages through the whole film.Nimoy later refined his technique by helming the next sequel "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986) - the most commercially successful of the series - and the most humorous, as the crew of the Enterprise went back in time to modern day San Francisco to save to whales. Much of the laugh-getting came from to not only having to disguise Spock's pointy ears - but to explain modern American slang to a Vulcan who took everything literally. While the fifth installment, "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," directed by his co-star and friend William Shatner was the weakest of the franchise, the Enterprise crew bounced back when Nicholas Meyer - director of the best loved film, "The Wrath of Khan" - took hold of what would be the original crew's final foray into space together - "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country" (1991) - a movie Nimoy also co-produced. The final film - while not the strongest of the lot, did not disappoint fans who loved the gadgets and gizmos as much as they did the crew rapport - particularly between Shatner's Captain Kirk, DeForest Kelley's Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, and Nimoy's green-blooded science officer under Kirk's command. To the delight of fans, the cast - who themselves could not have escaped the fact that this was possibly their final outing together - tapped into the brotherly rivalry and love that had always provided "Trek" with its true humanity.Proving a deft touch behind the camera - particularly in his own film franchise world, Nimoy stepped out of his interstellar safety net and found surprising success in 1987, with the success of the cutesy - if somewhat formulaic - comedy, "Three Men and a Baby" (1987). A box office smash, "Three Men and a Baby" opened the doors for Nimoy the director, though his subsequent off-camera ventures - the earnest drama "The Good Mother" (1988) and the little-seen comedies "Funny About Love" (1990) and "Holy Matrimony" (1994), foundered around their middling conceptions.Ever diligent Trekkies continued to hope for cast reunions in whatever new "Trek" off-shoot came on the scene. In 1994, Nimoy declined an invitation to make a cameo as Spock in "Star Trek: Generations" - the seventh "Trek" film and the first to exclusively feature the new cast of "ST: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-1994). Explaining his decision in a 1995 interview, Nimoy stated: "Quite frankly, the script didn't need me. It was a nothing role with just a few lines for Spock to 'pass the torch' to the new cast. I wasn't interested in that as far as I was concerned, Spock had a grand exit in 'Star Trek VI' and I didn't want to disrespect that in any way."With the dawn of the new millennium, Nimoy significantly scaled back his Hollywood duties; preferring to focus mainly on his photography. Limiting himself to the occasional voice-over gig, Nimoy provided narration for various documentary series and animated projects such as Disney's "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" (2001). He also found time to playfully tweak his sci-fi icon status with TV guest spots on shows like "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989-) and "Futurama" (Fox, 1999-2003). In 2001, Nimoy joined William Shatner for the DVD project "Mind Meld: The Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime," essentially a filmed conversation in Nimoy's backyard in which the actors discussed a number of subjects, including their unlikely bond and enduring friendship, Nimoy's bout with alcoholism, and the resentment they encountered from some of their fellow "Trek" cast mates.In 2007, five years after he officially announced his retirement from acting, director J.J. Abrams lured Nimoy back before the cameras. Set to play Spock one last time in the director's highly anticipated 2008 re-boot of the "Star Trek" movie franchise, Nimoy was promised a pivotal role and a chance at achieving closure with his famous alter ego. During the preproduction, Nimoy also met the actor Zachary Quinto of "Heroes" fame (NBC, 2006-09) who was set to portray a younger version of Spock. Thankfully, the two hit it off, with Nimoy having the young actor over to his house for dinner; becoming, as Quinto himself said, a bit of a surrogate father, since he had grown up fatherless. On a humorous note, Quinto also stressed that Nimoy was doing his best to teach him to properly roll out the standard Vulcan greeting - fingers in V formation, "Live Long and Prosper." Nimoy also appeared in the film's sequel, "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013). Continuing to playfully tweak his geek credentials, Nimoy took on a recurring role in the cult science fiction thriller "Fringe" (Fox 2009-2012) and appeared in voiceover on an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS 2007-), as a Spock action figure that offers advice to Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons). In February 2014, Nimoy revealed via Twitter that although he had quit smoking three decades before, he was suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), adding "Grandpa says, quit now! !" Leonard Nimoy died at his Bel Air, California home on February 27, 2015. He was 83.