Four days after William Shatner – best known as the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise James T. Kirk – turned 82, the legendary actor Leonard Nimoy – best known as the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock in TV series Star Trek – turns 82 today, 26 March. Shatner and Nimoy now shared the same age. Happy B-Day, Mr. Spock!
Leonard Simon Nimoy was born on March 26, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts, in the West End, to Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Soviet Union (now Ukraine). Nimoy is four days younger than his Star Trek co-star William Shatner. 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—with which, his father advised, Nimoy could always make a living—but his grandfather encouraged him to become an actor.
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, television series such as Perry Mason, and 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.
In the 50’s, Nimoy appeared in many TV series as The Twilight Zone, Sea Hunt, Highway Patrol, Colt .45 and Wagon Train. Throughout the 1960s, Nimoy appeared in Bonanza, The Rebel, Two Faces West, Rawhide, The Untouchables, The Eleventh Hour, Combat!, Daniel Boone, The Outer Limits, The Virginian, Get Smart and Mission: Impossible. After worked together in Star Trek series, Nimoy and 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. Nimoy first worked with DeForest Kelley – best known as Dr. Leonard McCoy in Star Trek series – in “Man of Violence”, a season two episode of The Virginian.
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Leonard Nimoy’s greatest prominence came from his role in the original Star Trek series. As the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock, 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 William Shatner, who portrayed his commanding officer, saying of their relationship, “we were like brothers”.
Star Trek: The Original Series was broadcast from 1966 to 1969. Nimoy earned three Emmy Award nominations for his work on the iconic program that has defined American television science fiction, both for fans of science fiction, and beyond.
He went on to reprise the Spock character in Star Trek: The Animated Series and two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The 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, directed by J. J. Abrams. In April 2010, Leonard Nimoy announced that he was retiring from playing the signature character of Star Trek‘s Spock.
Live long and prosper
Spock’s Vulcan salute became a recognized symbol of the show and was identified with him. Leonard 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. The accompanying spoken blessing, Live long and prosper”.
After Star Trek
In the 70’s, Leonard Nimoy oined the cast of the spy series Mission: Impossible, which was seeking a replacement for Martin Landau. He played the role during the fourth and fifth seasons of the show from 1969 to 1971. 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), and appeared in various made for television films. He received an Emmy Award nomination for best supporting actor for the television film A Woman Called Golda (1982).
Nimoy’s interest in photography began in childhood; he still owns a camera that 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.
Nimoy has written 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. 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.
Leonard Nimoy has also written several volumes of poetry, some published along with a number of his photographs.