Leonard Simon Nimoy (March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015) was an American actor, film director, poet, singer and photographer. Nimoy was best known for his role as Spock in the original Star Trek series (1966–69), and in multiple film, television and video game sequels.
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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 1953, he served in the United States Army. In 1965, he made his first appearance in the rejected Star Trek pilot, The Cage, and went on to play the character of Mr Spock until 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. After the original Star Trek series, Nimoy starred in Mission: Impossible for two seasons, hosted the documentary series In Search of…, and narrated Civilization IV, as well as making several well-received stage appearances. More recently, he also had a recurring role in the science fiction series Fringe.
Nimoy’s fame as Spock was such 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.
“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.” Star Trek was broadcast from 1966 to 1969. Nimoy earned three Emmy Award nominations for his work on the program.
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.
Nimoy giving the Vulcan salute in 2011
Spock’s Vulcan salute became a recognized symbol of the show and was 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 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
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 (1969–71). Nimoy had strongly been considered as part of the initial cast for the show but remained in the Spock role of Star Trek
Nimoy in 1972
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) where he played a murderous doctor who was one of the few criminals 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 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 (1981), Fiddler on the Roof, The Man in the Glass Booth, Oliver!, 6 Rms Riv Vu, Full Circle, 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.