Leonard Nimoy
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Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Nimoy at the 2011 Phoenix Comicon.
Leonard Simon Nimoy

(1931-03-26)March 26, 1931
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedFebruary 27, 2015(2015-02-27) (aged 83)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, California
  • Actor
  • author
  • film director
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • photographer
Years active1951-2015[1][2]
Sandra Zober
(m. 1954; div. 1987)
(m. 1989)
Children2, including Adam Nimoy
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Army with border.png United States Army
Years of service1953 - 1955
RankStaff Sergeant
UnitSpecial Services

Leonard Simon Nimoy (; March 26, 1931 - February 27, 2015) was an American actor, filmmaker, photographer, author, singer, and songwriter. He is best known for playing Spock in the Star Trek franchise for almost 50 years, from a pilot episode shot in 1964 to his final film performance in 2013.[1] Nimoy directed films including Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and the 1987 comedy Three Men and a Baby.

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. From 1959 to 1962 he appeared in four episodes of Wagon Train.

In February 1965, he made his first appearance in the rejected Star Trek television 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 appearances in later spin-offs in the franchise. Spock made a significant cultural impact and earned 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..., made several well-received stage appearances, and played villain Doctor Kibner in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Nimoy's public profile as Spock was so strong that both 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, after Nimoy's death, an asteroid was named 4864 Nimoy in his honor.[7] The documentaries For the Love of Spock (2016) and Remembering Leonard Nimoy (2017) were produced by his son and daughter respectively; they cover his life, career, and later his illness.[8]

Early life

Leonard Simon Nimoy was born on March 26, 1931, in the West End[9] of Boston, Massachusetts, United States to immigrants from Iziaslav (in present-day 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; 1904-1987), was a homemaker, and his father, Max Nimoy (1901-1987), owned a barbershop in the Mattapan section of Boston.[15][16] He had an elder brother, Melvin.[1] He also had a cousin, Jeff Nimoy, a writer and actor in the entertainment industry.[17] Nimoy was Jewish.[18]

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, which was acting.[19] 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 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."[20] The role "lit a passion" that led him to pursue an acting career. "I never wanted to do anything else."[21] Shatner has said 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.[22][23][24] 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 method acting concepts derived from the teachings of Konstantin Stanislavsky, realizing 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.[21]:481 He took method actor Marlon Brando as a role model, and like him, wore jeans and T-shirts. Between studies, to have some income, he took a job at an ice cream parlor on the Sunset Strip.[21]:481

In 1953, Nimoy enlisted in the United States Army Reserve at Fort McPherson Georgia, serving for 18 months until 1955, leaving as a Staff 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.[25][26][27] One of his soldiers was Ken Berry, whom he encouraged to go into acting as a civilian, and helped contact agents.[28] During that period, he also directed and starred in A Streetcar Named Desire, with the Atlanta Theater Guild.[21]:481[a] 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 in 1967

Nimoy spent more than a decade receiving only small parts in B movies and the lead in one, along with a minor TV role.[24] 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.[22] Despite overcoming his Boston accent, because of his lean appearance Nimoy realized that becoming a star was not likely.[24]

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[30] 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.[31][24][32]

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 Deathwatch, a 1965 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".[33]

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,[34] and as Luke Reid in the "Night of Decision" episode of the ABC/Warner Bros. western series Colt .45.[35]

Nimoy appeared four times in ethnic roles on NBC's Wagon Train, the number one rated program of the 1961-1962 season. 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).[36][37]

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.[38]

Nimoy as Commander Spock with William Shatner as Captain Kirk, 1968

Nimoy and Star Trek co-star William Shatner first worked together on an episode of the NBC spy series 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.[39]

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.[40]

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[41]

Nimoy was best known for his portrayal of Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan character he played on Star Trek from the first TV episode, in 1966, to the film Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013.[1][42] Biographer Dennis Fischer says it was Nimoy's "most important role,"[21]:482 and Nimoy was later credited by others for bringing "dignity and intelligence to one of the most revered characters in science fiction."[43]

The character became iconic, considered one of the most popular alien characters ever featured on television. Viewers admired Spock's "coolness, his intelligence", and his ability to take on any task successfully, adds Fischer. As a result, Nimoy's character "took the public by storm", nearly eclipsing the star of the series, William Shatner's Captain Kirk.[21]:482

Nimoy and Shatner, who portrayed his commanding officer, became close friends during the years the series was on television, and were "like brothers", said Shatner.[44] Star Trek was broadcast from 1966 to 1969. For his role as Spock, Nimoy was nominated three times Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, and is currently the only Star Trek actor to be nominated for an Emmy.[45]

Among Spock's recognized and unique symbols 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 hands when giving the Priestly Blessing. The accompanying spoken blessing is "Live long and prosper".[46][47]

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.[21]: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 series 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.[48]

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), season2 episode6 entitled "A Stitch in Crime"; Nimoy portrayed murderous doctor Barry Mayfield, one of the few murder suspects toward whom Columbo showed anger. Nimoy appeared in 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. In 2000-2001 he hosted CNBC TV series The Next Wave With Leonard Nimoy, which explored how e-businesses were integrating with technology and the Internet. He also had a character part as a psychiatrist in Philip Kaufman's 1978 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 Tevye, also came from a shtetl in Russia and could relate to the play when they saw him in it.[49] Later that year he starred as Arthur Goldman in The Man in the Glass Booth at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.[50][51]

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."[52]

In 1975 he toured with and played the title role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Sherlock Holmes.[21]:483 A number of authors have perceived 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."[53] Meyer gives a few examples, including a scene in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, in which Spock quotes directly from a 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.[53]

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.[24] In 1981 he starred in Vincent, a one-man show which Nimoy wrote and published as a book in 1984.[54] The audio recording of the play is available on DVD under the title, Van Gogh Revisited.[55] 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 on Broadway and in Washington, D.C. He was in Camelot, The King and I, Caligula, The Four Poster, and My Fair Lady.

Star Trek films

After Paramount agreed to settle a lawsuit by Nimoy for Star Trek merchandise royalties, the actor agreed to join Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the first in the Star Trek film series. By 1986, Nimoy had earned more than half a million dollars in royalties.[56]

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 (1950), were released on Caedmon Records.[57] During 1980, Nimoy hosted the "Adventure Night" segment of the radio drama series Mutual Radio Theater, heard via the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1986, Nimoy lent his voice to the 1986 cartoon movie The Transformers: The Movie for the character Galvatron.

In Bradbury's 1993 animated TV film The Halloween Tree, Nimoy was the voice of Mr. Moundshroud, the children's guide. 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.[58]

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. 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.[59]

In 2009, he voiced the part of "The Zarn", an Altrusian, in the television-based movie Land of the Lost. Nimoy also provided voiceovers for the Star Trek Online massive multiplayer online game, released in February 2010,[60] as well as Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as Master Xehanort, the series' leading villain. Tetsuya Nomura, the director of Birth by Sleep, said 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. After his death in 2015, Nimoy was replaced by Rutger Hauer for the role of Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts III; after Hauer's death in 2019, Nimoy's Star Trek co-star Christopher Lloyd took over the role for Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind and Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory.

Nimoy was the voice of Sentinel Prime in the 2011 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon. 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.[61] 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 1932 novel.

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, both as himself and as 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.[62] 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,[63] and continued to guest star through the show's fourth season, even after his stated 2012 retirement from acting.[64] Nimoy's first appearance as Bell was in the Season1 finale, "There's More Than One of Everything", which explored the possible existence of a parallel universe.[65] 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 which had just premiered days earlier. In the sketch, the three actors attempt to appease long-time Trekkers by assuring them the new film would be true to the original Star Trek.[66]


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.[67] 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.[68][69][70]


In April 2010, 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.[71] 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.[72] 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.[73] 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 Mars to the label, is Nimoy's stepson.[74]

Nimoy provided the voice of Spock as a guest star in a Season5 episode of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory titled "The Transporter Malfunction", which aired on March 29, 2012.[75] Also in 2012, Nimoy reprised his role of William Bell in Fringe for the fourth season episodes "Letters of Transit" and "Brave New World" parts1 and2.[76] Nimoy reprised his role as Master Xehanort in the 2012 video game Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.[77] On August 30, 2012, Nimoy narrated a satirical segment about Mitt Romney's life on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.[78] 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.[79]

Other career work


Nimoy's interest in photography began in childhood; for the rest of his life, he owned a camera he had rebuilt at the age of 13. In the 1970s, he studied photography at the University of California, Los Angeles.[19][80] 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[19] 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 began feature film directing in 1984 with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the third installment of the film series. Nimoy directed the second most successful movie (critically and financially) in the franchise, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and then Three Men and a Baby, the highest-grossing film of 1987. These successes made him a star director.[81] Nimoy directed 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.

At a press conference promoting the 2009 Star Trek movie, Nimoy said he had no further plans or ambition to direct, although he enjoyed directing when he did it.[82]


Nimoy authored two volumes of autobiography. The first was called I Am Not Spock (1975) and was controversial, as many fans incorrectly assumed 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.[83]

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 he never would have, had he not portrayed the character. Nimoy maintained that in some meaningful sense he had merged with Spock while at the same time maintaining the distance between fact and fiction. In 2014, the audiobook version of I Am Spock, read by Nimoy, was published.[84]

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.[85] 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.[86] 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.[87]

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.[74]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Leonard Nimoy among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[88]

Personal life

Nimoy in September 2012

Nimoy was long active in the Jewish community, and could speak and read Yiddish.[89] 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.[90] Nimoy said 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.[90]

Nimoy was married twice. In 1954, he married actress Sandra Zober;[91] they had two children, Julie and Adam.[1] After 32 years of marriage, he reportedly left Sandra on her 56th birthday and divorced her in 1987.[19] On New Year's Day 1989, Nimoy married his second wife, actress Susan Bay, cousin of director Michael Bay.[92]

After two years of part-time study, in 1977 Nimoy earned an MA in education from Antioch College.[24] In 2000, he received an honorary doctorate from Antioch University in Ohio, awarded for activism in Holocaust remembrance, the arts, and the environment.[93] In 2012, he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Boston University.[94]

In the 2001 documentary film Mind Meld, in which Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner discuss their acting careers and personal lives,[95] Nimoy revealed that he had become an alcoholic while working on Star Trek and ended up in drug rehabilitation.[96] 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 his 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.[97] 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.[98] The Space Foundation named Nimoy 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.[43]

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.[99]

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.[100] This incident was confirmed by Nimoy in a Trekmovie interview, and happened during his years at Desilu.[101]

Nimoy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[42] On June 2, 2015, the asteroid 4864 Nimoy was named after him.[7][102]

Illness and death

A video about Leonard Nimoy's struggle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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.[103] On February 19, 2015, having been in and out of hospitals for several months, Nimoy was taken to UCLA Medical Center for chest pains.[104]

On February 25, 2015, Nimoy fell into a coma,[105] and died of complications from COPD on February 27, at the age of 83, in his Bel Air home.[106] 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."[107] 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".[108][109]

Nimoy was buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles on March 1, 2015.[110] 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 William Shatner could not attend, he was represented by his daughters.[111]

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."[112] George Takei called him an "extraordinarily talented man" and a "very decent human being".[113] Walter Koenig said that after working with Nimoy, he discovered Nimoy's "compassion, his intelligence and his humanity."[114] Nichelle Nichols noted that Nimoy's integrity, passion and devotion as an actor "helped transport Star Trek into television history."[115] 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."[116]

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."[117] 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."[118]

The Big Bang Theory, which made frequent references to Spock, and to which Nimoy lent his voice in one episode, 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."[119]

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,[120] 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."[121]

Adam Nimoy directed a biographical documentary on his father, titled For the Love of Spock, which Quinto narrated and with which Shatner was also involved.[122][123] For charity, Shatner used selfies made by Nimoy's fans to create an online tribute mosaic of Spock's vulcan salute.[124]

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 memory of the actor.[125]

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.[126]




Year Title Role Notes
1951 Queen for a Day Chief
Rhubarb Young Ball Player Uncredited[127]
1952 Kid Monk Baroni Paul 'Monk' Baroni
Francis Goes to West Point Football player Uncredited[128]
Zombies of the Stratosphere Narab
1953 Old Overland Trail Chief Black Hawk
1954 Combat Psychiatry - The Division Psychiatrist Distraught marine Uncredited
Them! Army Staff Sergeant Uncredited[]
1958 The Brain Eaters Professor Cole As Leonard Nemoy
1961 Tales of Wells Fargo - "Something Pretty" As Town Sheriff Coleman
1963 The Balcony Roger
1965 Deathwatch Jules Lefranc Also producer
1971 Catlow Miller
1973 Baffled! Tom Kovak
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 Also director
1986 The Transformers: The Movie Galvatron Voice
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Captain Spock Also director and story by
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
1993 Lights: The Miracle Of Chanukah Greek nobleman Voice
Short animated film
1994 Holy Matrimony Director
The Pagemaster Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde Voice
1995 Titanica Narrator Voice
1997 A Life Apart: Hasidism in America Narrator Voice
1997 The First Men in the Moon William Carver Direct-to-video
1998 The Harryhausen Chronicles Narrator Voice
Armageddon: Target Earth Narrator Voice
1999 Rashi: A Light After the Dark Ages Rashi Voice
Short film
2000 Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists Akron / Baraka / King Chandra Voices
2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire King Kashekim Nedakh Voice
2005 Rambam: The Story of Maimonides Rambam (Rabbi Mosche Ben Maimon) Voice
Illustrated-animated film
2009 Star Trek Spock Prime
2009 Land of the Lost The Zarn Voice
2011 Transformers: Dark of the Moon Sentinel Prime Voice[131]
2012 Zambezia Sekhuru Voice
New England Time Capsule Narrator Voice
Hava Nagila: The Movie Himself[133] Documentary
2013 Miracle of Israel Narrator Voice
Star Trek Into Darkness Spock Prime Cameo; final film role
2016 For the Love of Spock Himself Documentary; Posthumous release


Mission: Impossible: Leonard Nimoy, Greg Morris, Lesley Ann 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
Broken Arrow Apache / Nahilzay / Winnoa 3 episodes
1958 Harbor Command Fred Garrison Episode: "Contraband Diamonds"
Mackenzie's Raiders Kansas Episode: "The Imposter"
1958-1960 Sea Hunt Indio 6 episodes
1959 Dragnet Karlo Rozwadowski Episode: "The Big Name"
Tombstone Territory Little Hawk Episode: "The Horse Thief"
1959-1962 Wagon Train Bernabe Zamora, et al. 4 episodes
1960 Bonanza Freddy Episode "The Ape"
M Squad Bob Nash Episode "Badge for a Coward"
Tate Comanche Leader Episode "Comanche Scalps"
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"
87th Precinct Barrow Episode: "Very Hard Sell"
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"
Combat! Neumann Episode: "The Wounded Don't Cry"
The Virginian Lt. Beldon M.D. Episode: "Man of Violence"
Gunsmoke Holt Episode: "I Call Him Wonder"
1964 The Outer Limits Konig / Judson Ellis 2 episodes
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Vladeck Episode: "The Project Strigas Affair"
1965 Death Valley Days Yellow Bear Episode: "The Journey"
Combat! Pvt. Baum Episode: "The Raider"
The Virginian Keith Bentley Episode: "Show Me a Hero"
The Virginian Benjamin Frome Episode: "The Showdown"
1966 Gunsmoke John Walking Fox Episode: "The Treasure of John Walking Fox"
A Man Called Shenandoah Del Hillman Episode: "Run, Killer, Run"
Get Smart Stryker Episode: "The Dead Spy Scrawls"
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
1972 Night Gallery Henry Auden Episode: "She'll Be Company For You"
1973 Columbo Dr. Barry Mayfield Episode: "A Stitch in Crime"
Baffled! Tom Kovack Television film
The Alpha Caper Mitch Television film
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
1976 The Captain and Tennille Himself 1 episode Show #5-76
1980 Seizure: The Story of Kathy Morris Dr. Richard Connought Television film
1981 Vincent Theo van Gogh Television film; also director and co-writer
1982-1987 Standby...Lights! Camera! Action! Himself (host) 20 episodes
1982 A Woman Called Golda Morris Meyerson Television film
The Powers of Matthew Star Directed episode: "The Triangle"
1983 Marco Polo Ahmad Fanakati 3 episodes
T. J. Hooker Lt. Paul McGuire Episode: "Vengeance is Mine"
Directed episode: "The Decoy"
1984 The Sun Also Rises Count Mippipopolous 2 episodes
1991 Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories Narrator (voice) 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
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 (voice) 91 episodes
1995 Bonanza: Under Attack Frank James Television film
1995-1997 Deadly Games Executive producer and directed episode: "Killshot"
1995 The Outer Limits Thomas Cutler Episode: "I, Robot"
1996 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Spock Archive footage used in one episode (Trials and Tribble-ations)
1997 David Samuel Television film
1998 Brave New World Mustapha Mond Television film
The Lost World Angus McArdle (voice) Television film
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"[134]
2020 Star Trek: Discovery Ambassador Spock Archive footage used in one episode: "Unification III"

Music videos

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

Video games

Awards and nominations


  • Poetry
    • You & I (1973) (ISBN 978-0-912310-26-8)
    • Will I Think of You? (1974) (ISBN 978-0-912310-70-1)
    • We Are All Children Searching for Love: A Collection of Poems and Photographs (1977) (ISBN 978-0-88396-024-0)
    • Come be With Me (1978) (ISBN 978-0-88396-033-2)
    • These Words are for You (1981) (ISBN 978-0-88396-148-3)
    • Warmed by Love (1983) (ISBN 978-0-88396-200-8)
    • A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life (2002) (ISBN 978-0-88396-596-2)
  • Biography
  • Screenplays
  • Photography


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ In 2002, the Military Personnel Records Center reported that Nimoy's entire Army personnel file had been destroyed in the National Personnel Records Center fire of 1973. A reconstructed file, containing a pay sheet and some personal details, was then created and placed in the agency's security vault for high-profile military service records.[29]


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  4. ^ Jensen, K. Thor (November 20, 2008). "Spock". UGO.com. San Francisco, CA: IGN Entertainment, Inc. Archived from the original on September 13, 2008. Retrieved 2009.
  5. ^ Nimoy (1975), pp. 1-6
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  7. ^ a b "Leonard Nimoy, Honored: Asteroid 4864 Nimoy Named After Actor Who Played 'Star Trek's' Spock", Inquisitr, June 6, 2015
  8. ^ "New documentary by Leonard Nimoy's son honors both his dad and Spock", USA Today, September 8, 2016
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