Who is a great actor? I always believed that the one whose character is remembered more than him or her could be called a great actor, the one who would immortalise what he or she played on screen. Leonard Nimoy achieved that feat. In a way only few can ever match. Today, with great sadness we hear of Leonard Nimoy’s demise. He died at his home at the age of 83, the cause of his death being end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Even though Leonard Nimoy lived a long and successful life, it still feels that he has been taken away early, and that he still could have offered more to cinema.
Leonard Nimoy was always destined to be an actor. He began working in local productions at an early age of 8. Even though he studied photography, served in the US Army for 2 years, and took up part-time jobs as a soda jerk, movie usher and cabdriver, his passion for acting drove him to the big stage. He began his acting career in the early 1950s, taking up small roles here and there, both in movies and in television. By the end of the 50s and early 60s, Leonard Nimoy was more prolific in his work, and featuring in more prominent roles.
It was only in the mid-60s that the role, which would eventually put Nimoy on the global map, would come his way. The character he was to play was a certain Mr. Spock in the TV series Star Trek. On so many occasions, Star Trek seemed to be headed for a premature ending, but each time it survived, and so did Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock. The highly logical Vulcan-human character grew in stature and fame as the Star Trek world expanded over decades. It could have ended in the very beginning though as the first episode pilot shown to the studio NBC was rejected. But the studio still showed some faith and ordered another pilot episode. Leonard Nimoy was the only actor who survived the fall, and was asked to reprise his role of Mr. Spock in the second pilot episode, which got accepted.
The Star Trek series itself premiered in 1966 but after three seasons it was cancelled by NBC. We could have said our farewell to Spock then. But this character had a destiny to become immortal, and so after the animated series of the 1970s, Star Trek returned on a bigger screen, as a movie in 1979. And so did Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock. There was no stopping the juggernaut thereafter. Despite subsequent ups and downs, the series has survived and was rebooted in 2009 by J.J. Abrams. One of the best scenes of the new Star Trek, any Trekkie would agree, was to see Leonard Nimoy play the cameo role of a Spock from the future. It was an indication that no Star Trek movie would be complete without Nimoy.
Leonard Nimoy was patient with the character of Spock. He did not rush into it, he did not try to force it to be a certain way; instead, he allowed it to grow, to develop, to form an interesting personality which we all fell in love with. The logical side of him clashing with his human-half, it became one of the enigmas that Spock had to try to solve, which made him so enthralling to watch. It led to a cult following, gave this character a legendary status in the sci-fi universe, and made Leonard Nimoy and Spock inseparable. In the rebooted series, Zachary Quinto has done a fantastic job as the new Spock, but for many of the old lovers, there is no one else who can play it better than Nimoy. Such has been the devotion that Nimoy inspired in so many, in a way that only few actors can. Nimoy did try to bring out the differences between himself and the role that made him globally famous through his memoirs titled I Am Not Spock which was published in 1975, before the release of the first movie. In 1995, he published another autobiography titled I Am Spock to show a better identification with the character over the years.
Leonard Nimoy also directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Beyond the Star Trek series, he directed the 1987 hit film Three Men and a Baby, a far cry from the universes he had been exploring as Spock. He voiced the character of Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, another time when we loved hearing that voice which seems filled to the brim with wisdom. He was part of the 1982 TV movie A Woman Called Golda, which fetched him his fourth Emmy nomination, the first three being for his role in Star Trek TV series. If all this doesn’t feel like a lot of hard work already, then Nimoy has also published books of his photography, published poetry and released music records. Phew!
Leonard Nimoy achieved great heights in the world of TV and movies, not only on the back of his acting skills, but also with sheer hard work. While many would forever remember him as Spock, Leonard Nimoy has in fact had such a diverse career in so many art forms which only a few would ever be able to match. Now with a new Star Trek film planned for a 2016 release, so as to coincide with the 50 year celebrations of the Star Trek series, there will linger a feeling of incompleteness. But though Nimoy will be surely missed, his legendary character has been immortalized in the world of cinema, and to Spock we say those lines that are now famous as the character himself, “Live Long and Prosper.” RIP, Leonard Nimoy!