Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Nimoy at Phoenix Comicon in May 2011
Born Leonard Simon Nimoy
(1931-03-26)March 26, 1931
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died February 27, 2015(2015-02-27) (aged 83)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Resting place Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, California
  • Actor
  • author
  • film director
  • photographer
Years active 1951–2013[1][2]
Children 2

Leonard Simon Nimoy (/ˈnmɔɪ/; March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015) was an American actor, film director, photographer, author, singer and songwriter. He was known for his role as Spock of the Star Trek franchise, a character he portrayed in television and film from a pilot episode shot in late 1964 to his final film performance released in 2013.[1]

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. Foreshadowing his fame as a semi-alien, he played Narab, one of three Martian invaders, in the 1952 movie serial Zombies of the Stratosphere.

In December 1964, he made his first appearance in the rejected Star Trek pilot "The Cage", and went on to play the character of Spock until the end of the production run in early 1969, followed by eight feature films and guest slots in the various spin-off series. The character has had a significant cultural impact and garnered Nimoy three Emmy Award nominations; TV Guide named Spock one of the 50 greatest TV characters.[3][4] After the original Star Trek series, Nimoy starred in Mission: Impossible for two seasons, hosted the documentary series In Search of..., narrated Civilization IV, and made several well-received stage appearances. He also had a recurring role in the science fiction series Fringe.

Nimoy's public profile as Spock was so strong that both of his autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995), were written from the viewpoint of sharing his existence with the character.[5][6] In 2015 an asteroid was named 4864 Nimoy in his honor.[7] In September 2016, For the Love of Spock, a feature-film documentary that covered his life and career, was released.[8]

Early life

Leonard Simon Nimoy was born on March 26, 1931, in the West End[9] of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Ukraine.[10][11][12] His parents left Iziaslav separately—his father first walking over the border into Poland while his mother and grandmother were smuggled out of the Soviet Union in a horse-drawn wagon by hiding under bales of hay.[13]:7 They reunited after arriving in the United States.[14] His mother, Dora (née Spinner), was a homemaker, and his father, Max Nimoy, owned a barbershop in the Mattapan section of Boston.[15][16] He had an elder brother, Melvin.[1]

As a child, Nimoy took miscellaneous jobs to supplement his family's income, including selling newspapers and greeting cards, shining shoes, or setting up chairs in theaters, and when he got older, selling vacuum cleaners.[13]:12 He also began acting at the age of eight in a children's and neighborhood theater.[14] His parents wanted him to attend college and pursue a stable career, or even learn to play the accordion, so he could always make a living, but his grandfather encouraged him to do what he then wanted to do most, to become an actor.[17] Nimoy also realized he had an aptitude for singing, which he developed while a member of his synagogue's choir.[13]:17 His singing during his bar mitzvah at age 13 was so good that he was asked to repeat his performance the following week at another synagogue. "He is still the only man I know whose voice was two bar mitzvahs good!," said William Shatner.[13]:18

His first major role was at 17, as Ralphie in an amateur production of Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing!,[12] which dealt with the struggles of a matriarchal Jewish family similar to his during the Great Depression. "Playing this teenage kid in this Jewish family that was so much like mine was amazing," he said. "The same dynamics, the same tensions in the household."[18] The role "lit a passion" that led him to pursue an acting career. "I never wanted to do anything else."[19] Shatner notes that Nimoy also worked on local radio shows for children, often voice acting Bible stories, adding:

Obviously, there was something symbolic about that. Many years later as Captain Kirk, I would be busy rescuing civilizations in distress on distant planets while Leonard's Mr. Spock would be examining the morality of man– and alienkind.[13]:17

Nimoy took drama classes at Boston College, and after moving to Los Angeles, he used $600 he saved from selling vacuum cleaners to enroll at the Pasadena Playhouse.[20][21][22] However, he was soon disillusioned and quit after six months, feeling that the acting skills he had already acquired from earlier roles were more advanced: "I thought, I have to study here three years in order to do this level of work, and I'm already doing better work."[13]:25

He became a devotee of Konstantin Stanislavsky's method acting concepts, realizing that the stage allowed him to explore the "psychological, emotional, and physical territories of life that can't be done anywhere else," inquiries which he said led him into acting in the first place.[19]:481 He took method actor Marlon Brando as a role model, and like him, wore jeans and T-shirt. Between studies, to have some income, he took a job at an ice cream parlor on the Sunset Strip.[19]:481

In 1953, Nimoy enlisted in the United States Army Reserve at Fort McPherson Georgia, serving for 18 months until 1955, leaving as a sergeant. Part of Nimoy's time in the military was spent with the Army Special Services, putting on shows which he wrote, narrated, and emceed.[23][24][25] During that period, he also directed and starred in A Streetcar Named Desire, with the Atlanta Theater Guild.[19]:481[lower-alpha 1] Soon after he was discharged, with his wife Sandi pregnant with their second child, they rented an apartment and Nimoy took a job driving a cab in Los Angeles.[13]:41

Acting career

Before and during Star Trek

Nimoy spent more than a decade receiving only small parts in B movies and the lead in one, along with a minor TV role.[22] He believed that playing the title role in the 1952 film Kid Monk Baroni would make him a star, but the film failed after playing briefly. While he was serving in the military the film gained a larger audience on television, and after his discharge he got steadier work playing a "heavy," where his character used street weapons like switchblades and guns, or had to threaten, hit or kick people.[20] Despite overcoming his Boston accent, because of his lean appearance Nimoy realized that becoming a star was not likely.[22]

He decided to be a supporting actor rather than take lead roles, an attitude he acquired from his childhood: "I'm a second child who was educated to the idea my older brother was to be given respect and not perturbed. I was not to upstage him... So my acting career was designed to be a supporting player, a character actor."[13]:25 He played more than 50 small parts in B movies, television series such as Perry Mason[27] and Dragnet, and serials such as Republic Pictures' Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952), in which Nimoy played Narab, a Martian. To support a wife and two children he often did other work, such as delivering newspapers, working in a pet shop, and driving cabs.[28][22][29]

Nimoy played an Army sergeant in the 1954 science fiction thriller Them! and 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. With Vic Morrow, he co-produced a 1966 version of Deathwatch, an English-language film version of Genet's play Haute Surveillance, adapted and directed by Morrow and starring Nimoy. The story dealt with three prison inmates. Partly as a result of his role, he then taught drama classes to members of Synanon, a drug rehab center, explaining: "Give a little here and it always comes back."[30]

On television, Nimoy appeared 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.[31] He had guest roles in the Sea Hunt series from 1958 to 1960 and a minor role in the 1961 The Twilight Zone episode "A Quality of Mercy". He also appeared in the syndicated Highway Patrol starring Broderick Crawford.[32]

In 1959, Nimoy was cast as Luke Reid in the "Night of Decision" episode of the ABC/Warner Bros. western series Colt .45, starring Wayde Preston and directed by Leslie H. Martinson.[33]

Nimoy appeared four times in ethnic roles on NBC's Wagon Train, the No. 1 program of 1962. He portrayed Bernabe Zamora in "The Estaban Zamora Story" (1959), "Cherokee Ned" in "The Maggie Hamilton Story" (1960), Joaquin Delgado in "The Tiburcio Mendez Story" (1961) and Emeterio Vasquez in "The Baylor Crowfoot Story" (1962).

Nimoy appeared in Bonanza (1960), The Rebel (1960), Two Faces West (1961), Rawhide (1961), The Untouchables (1962), The Eleventh Hour (1962), Perry Mason (1963; playing murderer Pete Chennery in "The Case of the Shoplifter's Shoe", episode 13 of season 6), Combat! (1963, 1965), Daniel Boone, The Outer Limits (1964), The Virginian (1963–1965; first working with Star Trek co-star DeForest Kelley in "Man of Violence", episode 14 of season 2, in 1963), and Get Smart (1966). He appeared again in the 1995 Outer Limits series. He appeared in Gunsmoke in 1962 as Arnie and in 1966 as John Walking Fox.[34]

Nimoy as Spock with William Shatner as Captain Kirk, 1968

Nimoy and Star Trek co-star William Shatner first worked together on an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., "The Project Strigas Affair" (1964). Their characters were from opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, though with his saturnine looks, Nimoy was the villain, with Shatner playing a reluctant U.N.C.L.E. recruit.

On the stage, Nimoy played the lead role in a short run of Gore Vidal's Visit to a Small Planet in 1968 (shortly before the end of the Star Trek series) at the Pheasant Run Playhouse in St. Charles, Illinois.[35]

Star Trek

His legacy as that character is key to the enjoyment of Star Trek. The way that Spock was used as a device for the writers to examine humanity and examine what it meant to be human, that's really what Star Trek was all about. And in finding Leonard Nimoy, they found the perfect person to portray that.

Matt Atchity, editor-in-chief of Rotten Tomatoes[36]

Nimoy was known for his portrayal of Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan character he played on Star Trek from the first 1966 TV episode to the film, Star Trek Into Darkness, in 2013.[1][37] Biographer Dennis Fischer states that it was Nimoy's "most important role,"[19]:482 and Nimoy was later credited by others for bringing "dignity and intelligence to one of the most revered characters in science fiction."[38]

The character was to become iconic, considered one of the most popular alien characters ever portrayed on television. Viewers admired Spock's "coolness, his intelligence," and his ability to take on successfully any task, adds Fischer. As a result, Nimoy's character "took the public by storm," nearly eclipsing the star of the show, William Shatner's Captain Kirk.[19]:482 President Obama, who said he loved Spock, similarly described Nimoy's character as "cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek's optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity's future."[37]

Nimoy as Spock

Nimoy and Shatner, who portrayed his commanding officer, became close friends during the years the show was on television, and were "like brothers," said Shatner.[39] Star Trek was broadcast from 1966 to 1969. Nimoy earned three Emmy Award nominations for his work on the program.

Among Spock's recognized and unique symbols that he incorporated into the series was the Vulcan salute, which became identified with him. Nimoy created the sign himself from his childhood memories of the way kohanim (Jewish priests) hold their hand when giving blessings. During an interview, he translated the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24–26 which accompanies the sign[40] and described it during a public lecture:[41]

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. The accompanying spoken blessing, "Live long and prosper."

Nimoy also came up with the concept of the "Vulcan nerve pinch", which he suggested as a replacement for the scripted knock out method of using the butt of his phaser. He wanted a more sophisticated way of rendering a person unconscious. Nimoy explained to the show's director that Spock had, per the story, gone to the Vulcan Institute of Technology and had studied human anatomy. Spock also had the ability to project a unique form of energy through his fingertips. Nimoy explained the idea of putting his hand on his neck and shoulder to Shatner, and they rehearsed it. Nimoy credits Shatner's acting during the "pinch" that sold the idea and made it work on screen.[19]:482

He went on to reprise the Spock character in Star Trek: The Animated Series and two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. When a new Star Trek series was planned in the late 1970s, Nimoy was to be in only two out of eleven episodes, but when the show was elevated to a feature film, he agreed to reprise his role. The first six Star Trek movies feature the original Star Trek cast including Nimoy, who also directed two of the films. He played the elder Spock in the 2009 Star Trek movie and reprised the role in a brief appearance in the 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, both directed by J. J. Abrams.

After Star Trek

Nimoy giving the Vulcan salute in 2011

Following 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 in the role of Paris, an IMF agent who was an ex-magician and make-up expert, "The Great Paris". He played the role during seasons four and five (1969–1971). Nimoy had been strongly considered as part of the initial cast for the show, but remained in the Spock role on Star Trek.[42]

He co-starred with Yul Brynner and Richard Crenna in the Western movie Catlow (1971). He also had roles in two episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1972 and 1973) and Columbo (1973), season 2 episode 6 entitled "A Stitch in Crime"; Nimoy played a murderous doctor (Dr. Barry Mayfield) who was one of the few murderers with whom Columbo became angry. 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 television film A Woman Called Golda (1982), for playing the role of Morris Meyerson, Golda Meir's husband, opposite Ingrid Bergman as Golda in her final role.

In 1975, Leonard Nimoy filmed an opening introduction to Ripley's World of the Unexplained museum located at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Fisherman's Wharf at San Francisco, California. In the late 1970s, he hosted and narrated the television series In Search of..., which investigated paranormal or unexplained events or subjects. He also had a character part as a psychiatrist in Philip Kaufman's remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.


Nimoy at a 1980 sci-fi convention.

Nimoy also won acclaim for a series of stage roles. In 1971 he played the starring role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, which toured for eight weeks. Nimoy, who had performed in the Yiddish theater as a young man, said the part was like a "homecoming" for him, explaining that his parents, like Tevya, also came from a shtetl in Russia and could relate to the play when they saw him in it.[43] Later that year he starred as Arthur Goldman in The Man in the Glass Booth at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.[44][45]

He starred as Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1974, a year prior to its release as a feature film, with Jack Nicholson in the same role. During the run of the play, Nimoy took over as its director and wanted his character to be "rough and tough," and insisted on having tattoos. The costumer for the show, Sharon White, was amused: "That was sort of an intimate thing. . . . Here I am with Mr. Spock, for god's sakes, and I am painting pictures on his arms."[46]

In 1975 he toured with and played the title role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Sherlock Holmes.[19]:483 A number of authors have noted parallels between the rational Holmes and the character of Spock, and it became a running theme in Star Trek fan clubs. Star Trek writer Nicholas Meyer said that "the link between Spock and Holmes was obvious to everyone."[47] Meyer gives a few examples, including a scene in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, in which Spock quotes directly from a Conan Doyle book and credits Holmes as a forefather to the logic he was espousing. In addition, the connection was implied in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which paid homage to both Holmes and Spock.[47]

By 1977, when Nimoy played Martin Dysart in Equus on Broadway, he had played 13 important roles in 27 cities, including Tevye, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.[22] In 1981 he starred in Vincent, a one-man show which Nimoy wrote and published as a book in 1984.[48] The audio recording of the play is available on DVD under the title, Van Gogh Revisited[49] It was based on the life of artist Vincent van Gogh, in which Nimoy played Van Gogh's brother Theo. Other plays included Oliver!, at the Melody Top Theater in Milwaukee, 6 Rms Riv Vu opposite Sandy Dennis, in Florida, Full Circle with Bibi Anderson in Washington, D.C., and later in Full Circle. He was in Camelot, The King and I, Caligula, The Four Poster, and My Fair Lady.

After two years of part-time study, in 1977 Nimoy earned a MA in Education from Antioch College.[22]. He received an honorary doctorate from Antioch University in Ohio, awarded for activism in Holocaust remembrance, the arts, and the environment,[50] and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Boston University.[51]

Star Trek films

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. These successes made him a star director.[52] At a press conference promoting the 2009 Star Trek movie, however, Nimoy said he had no further plans or ambition to direct, although he enjoyed directing when he did it.[53]

Other work after Star Trek

Voice actor

Selection of Nimoy's narration for a documentary about the brain

In 1975, his renditions of Ray Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains and Usher II, both from The Martian Chronicles, were released on Caedmon Records.[54]

During 1980, Nimoy hosted the "Adventure Night" segment of the radio drama series Mutual Radio Theater, heard via the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Nimoy lent his voice as narrator to the 1994 IMAX documentary film, Destiny in Space, showcasing film-footage of space from nine Space Shuttle missions over four years time.

In 1999, he voiced the narration of the English version of the Sega Dreamcast game Seaman and promoted Y2K educational films.[55]

Together with John de Lancie, another actor from the Star Trek franchise, Nimoy created Alien Voices, an audio-production venture that specializes in audio dramatizations. Among the works jointly narrated by the pair are The Time Machine, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Lost World, The Invisible Man and The First Men in the Moon, as well as several television specials for the Sci-Fi Channel. In an interview published on the official Star Trek website, Nimoy said that Alien Voices was discontinued because the series did not sell well enough to recoup costs.

In 2001, Nimoy voiced the role of the Atlantean King Kashekim Nedakh in the Disney animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which featured Michael J. Fox voicing the lead role.

Nimoy provided a comprehensive series of voice-overs for the 2005 computer game Civilization IV. He did the television series The Next Wave where he interviewed people about technology. He was the host in the documentary film The Once and Future Griffith Observatory, currently running in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Nimoy and his wife, Susan Bay-Nimoy, were major supporters of the Observatory's historic 2002–2004 expansion.[56]

In 2009, he voiced the part of "The Zarn", an Altrusian, in the television-based movie Land of the Lost, starring Will Ferrell.

Nimoy also provided voiceovers for the Star Trek Online massive multiplayer online game, released in February 2010,[57] as well as Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as Master Xehanort, the series' leading villain. Tetsuya Nomura, the director of Birth by Sleep, stated that he chose Nimoy for the role specifically because of his role as Spock. Nimoy would later reprise this role for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance in 2012.

Nimoy was 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.

Special appearances

From 1982 to 1987, Nimoy hosted the children's educational show Standby: Lights, Camera, Action on Nickelodeon.[58] He worked occasionally as a voice actor in animated feature films, including the character of Galvatron in The Transformers: The Movie in 1986. Nimoy also provided the narration for the 1991 CBS paranormal series Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories.

In 1994, Nimoy voiced Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in The Pagemaster. In 1998, he had a leading role as Mustapha Mond in Brave New World, a TV-movie version of Aldous Huxley's novel.

The handprints of Leonard Nimoy in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park

From 1994 until 1997, 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. Nimoy also appeared in several popular television series, including Futurama and The Simpsons, as both himself and Spock.

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.

Nimoy played the reoccurring enigmatic character of Dr. William Bell on the television show Fringe.[59] Nimoy opted for the role after previously working with Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman on the 2009 Star Trek film and offered another opportunity to work with this production team again. Nimoy also was interested in the series, which he saw was an intelligent mixture of science and science fiction,[60] and continued to guest star through the show's fourth season, even after his stated 2012 retirement from acting.[61] Nimoy's first appearance as Bell was in the Season 1 finale, "There's More Than One of Everything", which explored the possible existence of a parallel universe.[62]

In the May 9, 2009, episode of Saturday Night Live, Nimoy appeared as a surprise guest in the "Weekend Update" segment with Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine, who play the young Spock and Kirk in the Star Trek that had just premiered days earlier. In the sketch, the three actors attempt to appease long-time Trekkers by assuring them that the new film would be true to the original Star Trek.[63]


In 1991, Nimoy starred in Never Forget, which he co-produced with Robert B. Radnitz. The movie was about a pro bono publico lawsuit by an attorney on behalf of Mel Mermelstein, played by Nimoy as an Auschwitz survivor, against a group of organizations engaged in Holocaust denial. Nimoy said he experienced a strong "sense of fulfillment" from doing the film.[64]

In 2007, he produced the play, Shakespeare's Will by Canadian Playwright Vern Thiessen. The one-woman show starred Jeanmarie Simpson as Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway. The production was directed by Nimoy's wife, Susan Bay.[65][66][67]


In April 2010, Leonard Nimoy announced that he was retiring from playing Spock, citing both his advanced age and the desire to give Zachary Quinto the opportunity to enjoy full media attention with the Spock character.[68] Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep was to be his final performance; however, in February 2011, he announced his intent to return to Fringe and reprise his role as William Bell.[69] Nimoy continued voice acting despite his retirement; his appearance in the third season of Fringe included his voice (his character appeared only in animated scenes), and he provided the voice of Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.[70]

In May 2011, Nimoy made a cameo appearance in the alternate version music video of Bruno Mars' "The Lazy Song". Aaron Bay-Schuck, the Atlantic Records executive who signed Bruno Mars to the label, is Nimoy's stepson.[71]

Nimoy provided the voice of Spock as a guest star in a Season 5 episode of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory titled "The Transporter Malfunction", which aired on March 29, 2012.[72] Also in 2012, Nimoy reprised his role of William Bell in Fringe for the fourth season episodes "Letters of Transit" and "Brave New World" parts 1 & 2.[73] Nimoy reprised his role as Master Xehanort in the 2012 video game Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. On August 30, 2012, Nimoy narrated a satirical segment about Mitt Romney's life on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.[74] In 2013, Nimoy reprised his role as Ambassador Spock in a cameo appearance in Star Trek Into Darkness, and is the only actor from the original series to appear in Abrams' Star Trek films.[75]

Other career work


Nimoy's interest in photography began in childhood; for the rest of his life, he owned a camera that he rebuilt at the age of 13. In the 1970s, he studied photography at the University of California, Los Angeles.[17][76] 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[17] and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.


Nimoy made his directorial debut in 1973, with the "Death on a Barge" segment for an episode of Night Gallery during its final season. It was not until the early 1980s that Nimoy resumed directing on a consistent basis, ranging from television shows to motion pictures. Nimoy directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in 1984 and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in 1986. He went on to direct the hit comedy Three Men and a Baby (1987) followed by The Good Mother (1988) and Funny About Love (1990). In 1994 he directed his last feature film, Holy Matrimony. His final directorial credit was "Killshot", the 1995 pilot episode for Deadly Games, a short-lived science-fiction television series.


Nimoy authored two volumes of autobiography. The first was called I Am Not Spock (1975) 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.[77]

The second volume, I Am Spock (1995), saw Nimoy 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 also composed several volumes of poetry, some published along with a number of his photographs. A later poetic volume entitled A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life was published in 2002. His poetry can be found in the Contemporary Poets index of The HyperTexts.[78] Nimoy adapted and starred in the one-man play Vincent (1981), based on the play Van Gogh (1979) by Phillip Stephens.

In 1995, Nimoy was involved in the production of Primortals, a comic book series published by Tekno Comix about first contact 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 musical vocal recordings on Dot Records.[79] On his first album, Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space, and half of his second album Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, science fiction-themed songs are featured where Nimoy sings as Spock. On his final three albums, he sings popular folk songs of the era and cover versions of popular songs, such as "Proud Mary" and Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line". There are also several songs on the later albums that were written or co-written by Nimoy. He described how his recording career got started:

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.[80]

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 No. 3 on the US Pop charts, and No. 1 on the Dance charts.

Nimoy played the part of the chauffeur in the 1985 music video of The Bangles' cover version of "Going Down to Liverpool". He also appeared in the alternate music video for the song "The Lazy Song" by pop artist Bruno Mars.[71]

Personal life

Nimoy in September 2012

Nimoy was long active in the Jewish community, and could speak and read Yiddish.[81] 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. Reactions have varied from enthusiastic support to open condemnation.[82] Nimoy said that objections to Shekhina did not bother or surprise him, but he smarted at the stridency of the Orthodox protests, and was saddened at the attempt to control thought.[82]

Nimoy was married twice. In 1954, he married actress Sandra Zober (1927–2011); they had two children, Julie and Adam. After 32 years of marriage, he reportedly left Sandra on her 56th birthday and divorced her in 1987.[17] On New Year's Day 1989, Nimoy married his second wife, actress Susan Bay, cousin of director Michael Bay.[83]

In the 2001 documentary film Mind Meld, in which Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner discuss their acting careers and personal lives,[84] Nimoy revealed that he became an alcoholic while working on Star Trek and ended up in drug rehabilitation.[85] William Shatner, in his 2008 book Up Till Now: The Autobiography, spoke about how later in their lives, Nimoy tried to help Shatner's alcoholic wife, Nerine Kidd.

Nimoy 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 again on Monday morning.[86] Years after the show he observed Vulcan speech patterns, social attitudes, patterns of logic and emotional suppression in his own behavior.[1]

Nimoy was a private pilot and had owned an airplane.[87] 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.[38]

In 2009, Nimoy was honored by his childhood hometown when the Office of Mayor Thomas Menino proclaimed the date of November 14, 2009, as Leonard Nimoy Day in the City of Boston.[88]

In 2014, Walter Koenig revealed in a Las Vegas Sun interview that Leonard Nimoy personally and successfully advocated equal pay for Nichelle Nichols' work on Star Trek to the show's producers.[89] This incident was confirmed by Nimoy in a Trekmovie interview and happened during his years at Desilu.[90]

Nimoy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[37] On June 2, 2015, the asteroid 4864 Nimoy was named after him.[7][91]

Illness and death

In February 2014, Nimoy revealed publicly that he had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition he attributed to a smoking addiction he had given up about 30 years earlier.[92] On February 19, 2015, having been in and out of hospitals for several months, Nimoy was taken to UCLA Medical Center for chest pains.[93]

Nimoy died of complications from COPD on February 27, 2015, at the age of 83, in his Bel Air home.[94] He was survived by his wife; two children; six grandchildren; a great-grandchild; and his elder brother, Melvin.[1][95] Adam Nimoy said that as his father came closer to death, "he mellowed out. He made his family a priority and his career became secondary."[96] A few days before his death, Nimoy shared some of his poetry on social media website Twitter: "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP".[97][98]

Nimoy was buried in Los Angeles on March 1, 2015.[99] The service was attended by nearly 300 family members, friends and former colleagues, as well as Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine, and J. J. Abrams. Though Shatner could not attend, he was represented by his daughters.[100]

Personal tributes

Cast members of Star Trek who had worked alongside Nimoy gave personal tributes after his death. William Shatner wrote of Nimoy, "I loved him like a brother. ... We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love."[101] George Takei called him an "extraordinarily talented man" and a "very decent human being".[102] Walter Koenig said that after working with Nimoy, he discovered Nimoy's "compassion, his intelligence and his humanity."[103] Nichelle Nichols noted that Nimoy's integrity, passion and devotion as an actor "helped transport Star Trek into television history."[104] Quinto, who portrayed Spock as a young man in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, wrote, "My heart is broken. I love you profoundly my dear friend. And I will miss you every day."[105]

U.S. President Barack Obama, who had met Nimoy in 2007, remembered him as "a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time."[106] Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin called Nimoy "a fellow space traveler because he helped make the journey into the final frontier accessible to us all."[107]

The Big Bang Theory, to which Nimoy lent his voice, paid tribute to him after his death. A vanity card at the end of a March 2015 episode included a picture of Nimoy with the caption, "The impact you had on our show and on our lives is everlasting."[108]

As part of a campaign for the 2016 feature film Star Trek Beyond, aimed at benefiting several charities, Zachary Quinto and other cast members posted a video tribute to Nimoy,[109] and the feature film itself also paid tribute to Nimoy. Its director, Justin Lin, explained: "It's something you'll see in the film. It obviously affected everybody, because he's been a big part of our lives. There's an attempt to acknowledge that in some way."[110]

Adam Nimoy directed a biographical documentary on his father, entitled For the Love of Spock, which Quinto narrated and with which Shatner was also involved.[111][112] For charity, Shatner used selfies made by Nimoy's fans to create an online tribute mosaic of Spock's vulcan salute.[113]

In June 2015, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory renamed a 10 km (6.2 mi)-wide asteroid, originally discovered in 1988, in the Solar System's main asteroid belt, 4864 Nimoy, in honor of the actor.[114]

Shatner has also written a book about his friendship with Nimoy titled "Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man." The book was released on February 16, 2016.[115]


Richard Rober (left) & Leonard Nimoy in Kid Monk Baroni (1952)


Year Title Role Notes
1951 Queen for a Day Chief
1951 Rhubarb Young Ball Player Uncredited[116]
1952 Kid Monk Baroni Paul 'Monk' Baroni
1952 Zombies of the Stratosphere Narab
1952 Francis Goes to West Point Football player Uncredited[117]
1953 Old Overland Trail Chief Black Hawk
1954 Combat Psychiatry - The Division Psychiatrist Distraught marine Uncredited
1954 Them! Army Staff Sergeant Uncredited
1958 The Brain Eaters Professor Cole as "Leonard Nemoy"
1963 The Balcony Roger
1963 The Lieutenant Movie Producer Uncredited
1966 Deathwatch Jules Lefranc
1971 Catlow Miller
1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers Dr. David Kibner
1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture Spock
1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Captain Spock
1984 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Captain Spock Also director
1986 The Transformers: The Movie Galvatron Voice
1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Captain Spock Also director and writer
1987 Three Men and a Baby Director
1988 The Good Mother Director
1989 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Captain Spock
1990 Funny About Love Director
1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Captain Spock Also writer
1994 Holy Matrimony Director
1994 The Pagemaster Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Voice
1995 Titanica Narrator Documentary
1997 A Life Apart: Hasidism in America Narrator Documentary[119]
1997 The First Men in the Moon William Carver Direct-to-video
1998 The Harryhausen Chronicles Narrator Documentary
2000 Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists Akron / Baraka / King Chandra Voices
2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire King Kashekim Nedakh Voice
2009 Star Trek Spock Prime
2009 Land of the Lost The Zarn Voice
2011 Transformers: Dark of the Moon Sentinel Prime Voice[120]
2012 Zambezia Sekhuru Voice
2012 New England Time Capsule Narrator Documentary[121]
2013 Miracle of Israel Narrator Documentary
2013 Star Trek Into Darkness Spock Prime Cameo
2016 For the Love of Spock Himself Documentary
2016 Star Trek Beyond Ambassador Spock Photo Cameo


Mission: Impossible: Leonard Nimoy, Greg Morris, Lesley Anne Warren, Peter Lupus, and Peter Graves (1970)
Year Title Role Notes
1954 Dragnet Julius Carver Episode "The Big Boys"
1956 The West Point Story Tom Kennedy 2 episodes
1957–1958 Highway Patrol Harry Wells / Ray 2 episodes
1957–1958 Broken Arrow Apache / Nahilzay / Winnoa 3 episodes
1958 Mackenzie's Raiders Kansas Episode: "The Imposter"
1958–1960 Sea Hunt Indio 6 episodes
1959 Dragnet Karlo Rozwadowski Episode: "The Big Name"
1959 Tombstone Territory Little Hawk Episode: "The Horse Thief"
1959–1962 Wagon Train Bernabe Zamora, et al. 4 episodes
1960 Bonanza Freddy Episode "The Ape"
1960 M Squad Bob Nash Episode "Badge for a Coward"
1960 The Rebel Jim Colburn Episode "The Hunted"
1961 Gunsmoke John Walking Fox / Holt / Arnie / Elias Grice 4 episodes
1960, 1961 The Tall Man Deputy Sheriff Johnny Swift 2 episodes
1961 The Twilight Zone Hansen Episode: "A Quality of Mercy"
1961 87th Precinct Barrow Episode: "Very Hard Sell"
1961 Rawhide Anko Episode: "Incident Before Black Pass"
1962 The Untouchables Packy Episode: "Takeover"
1963 Perry Mason Pete Chennery Episode: "The Case of the Shoplifter's Shoe"
1963 Combat! Neumann Episode: "The Wounded Don't Cry"
1963 The Virginian Lt. Beldon M.D. Episode: "Man of Violence"
1964 The Outer Limits Konig / Judson Ellis 2 episodes
1964 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Vladeck Episode: "The Project Strigas Affair"
1965 Death Valley Days Yellow Bear Episode: "The Journey"
1965 Combat! Pvt. Baum Episode: "The Raiders"
1965 The Virginian Benjamin Frome Episode: "The Showdown"
1966 Get Smart Stryker Episode: "The Dead Spy Scrawls"
1966 Daniel Boone Oontah Episode: "Seminole Territory"
1966–1969 Star Trek Spock 79 episodes
1967 Valley of Mystery Spencer Atherton Television film
1969–1971 Mission: Impossible The Great Paris 49 episodes
1971 Assault on the Wayne Commander Phil Kettenring Television film
1973 Columbo Dr. Barry Mayfield Episode: "A Stitch in Crime"
1973 Baffled! Tom Kovack Television film
1973 The Alpha Caper Mitch Television film
1973 Night Gallery Directed episode: "Death on a Barge"
1973–1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series Spock (voice) 22 episodes
1974 Rex Harrison Presents Stories of Love Mick Television film
1975 The Missing Are Deadly Dr. Durov Television film
1976–1982 In Search of... Narrator/Host 145 episodes
1980 Seizure: The Story of Kathy Morris Dr. Richard Connought Television film
1981 Vincent Theo van Gogh Television film; also director and co-writer
1982 A Woman Called Golda Morris Meyerson Television film
1982 The Powers of Matthew Star Directed episode: "The Triangle"
1983 Marco Polo Ahmad Fanakati 3 episodes
1983 T. J. Hooker Paul McGuire Episode: "Vengeance is Mine"
1983 T. J. Hooker Directed episode: "The Decoy"
1984 The Sun Also Rises Count Mippipopolous 2 episodes
1991 Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories Narrator Episode: "Ghosts R Us/Legend of Kate Morgan/School Spirit"
1986 Faerie Tale Theatre The Evil Moroccan Magician Episode: "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp"
1991 Never Forget Mel Mermelstein Television film
1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation Ambassador Spock Episodes: "Unification"
1993 The Halloween Tree Mr. Moundshroud (voice) Television film
1993, 1997 The Simpsons Himself (voice) 2 episodes
1994–1998 Ancient Mysteries Narrator 91 episodes
1995 Bonanza: Under Attack Frank James Television film
1995 Deadly Games Directed episode: "Killshot"
1995 The Outer Limits Thomas Cutler Episode: "I, Robot"
1996 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Spock Archive footage used in 1 episode (Trials and Tribble-ations)
1997 David Samuel Television film
1997 Duckman Himself Episode: "Where No Duckman Has Gone Before"
1998 Brave New World Mustapha Mond Television film
1998 The Lost World Angus McArdle (voice) Television film
1998 Invasion America General Konrad (voice) 4 episodes
1999, 2002 Futurama Himself (voice) 2 episodes
2001 Becker Professor Emmett Fowler Episode: "The TorMentor"
2009–2012 Fringe Dr. William Bell 11 episodes
2012 The Big Bang Theory Action figure Spock (voice) Uncredited
Episode: "The Transporter Malfunction"[122]

Music videos

Year Title Artist
1967 "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" Leonard Nimoy
1985 "Going Down to Liverpool" The Bangles
2011 "The Lazy Song" Bruno Mars

Video games

Year Title Role
1999 Seaman Narrator
2005 Civilization IV Narrator
2010 Star Trek Online Spock
2010 Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Master Xehanort[123]
2012 Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Master Xehanort[124]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work Result
1968 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Star Trek Nominated
1969 Nominated
1970 Nominated
1978 Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actor Invasion of the Body Snatchers Nominated
1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture Nominated
1982 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special A Woman Called Golda Nominated
1984 Saturn Awards Best Director Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Nominated
1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Nominated
1986 Best Actor Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Nominated
2001 Annie Awards Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Feature Production Atlantis: The Lost Empire Nominated
2009 Boston Society of Film Critics Best Cast Star Trek Won
2009 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Cast Star Trek Nominated
2009 Scream Awards Best Ensemble Star Trek Nominated
2009 Saturn Awards Best Guest Starring Role on Television Fringe Won
2014 National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Boston/New England Chapter[125] New England Emmy Awards

Governors' Award

Enduring Contributions to the Television Industry Won




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