Leonard Simon Nimoy (March 26, 1931 — February 27, 2015) was an American actor and director who is best known for playing Mr. Spock on Star Trek: The Original Series. He was so much remembered for this role, and little else, that he went on to write an autobiography called I Am Not Spock, a reference to the fact that he didn't like being typecast and taken less seriously as an actor. The title led to a lot of confusion by fans, who assumed he resented Spock as a role, obliging him to write a second book entitled I Am Spock.
Nimoy was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, Dora Spinner and Max Nimoy, were both immigrants from Ukraine. Nimoy began his acting career in his early twenties, making minor appearances in both B-Movies and television throughout the 1950s. In 1965, however, he was signed on for the pilot of an upcoming sci-fi show, and the rest is history.
Beginning with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Nimoy started up a low key directing career that included Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Three Men and a Baby. As detailed below, he had a distinguished stage career in both modern and classical plays. As well, his distinctive voice led to several roles in animation and video games.
He also recorded several albums in the late 1960s. Surprisingly, he isn't as bad as you would think—or at least, not as campy as William Shatner; he was a decent baritone who generally stuck to ballads or Folk Music material, though he also did his fair share of Shatner-esque recitations. He appeared on many of the Golden Throats collections issued by Rhino Records. His first two albums (Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space and Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy) are especially great for a laugh, since he actually portrays Spock on both of them (though, as the title implies, the second album also includes straight song performances as himself). Two Sides is highlighted by his best-known song, the Camp classic Filk Song "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins", a jaunty re-telling of Tolkien's The Hobbit.
He became semi-retired in the mid-'90s, only taking on the occasional role that really interested him. Retired from on-screen acting completely after a stint as The Ghost William Bell in Fringe. After that he basically said "If you want to talk about Spock from now on, speak to my replacement." He did voice acting, as he played the voice of Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Fittingly enough, his final roles in any media would end up being a reprisal of Spock Prime in Star Trek (2009) and its first sequel.
Interested in photography from a very young age, he had a whole second career as a photo artist, with many exhibitions in galleries and several books.
He passed away on February 27, 2015 at the age of 83 from end-stage COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which he acquired as a result of smoking in his earlier years.
In memory of his father, his son, Adam Nimoy, produced a documentary about his father, For the Love of Spock, which was released in 2016. Adam would later marry fellow Trek alum Terry Farrell on March 26th, 2018, what would have been his father's 87th birthday.
Other roles include:
- Queen for a Day (1951): film debut as Chief note
- Them! (1954): appears briefly as a telegrapher who is quickly eaten by a giant ant.
- The Balcony (1963): Roger
- Deathwatch (1966): as Lefranc
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): as Dr. David Kibner
- A Woman Called Golda (1982): as Morris Meyerson
- Transformers: The Movie (1986): as Galvatron (voice)
- Brave New World (1998): as Mustapha Mond
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001): as King Kashekim Nedakh (voice)
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): as Sentinel Prime (voice)
- The Pagemaster (1994): as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (voice)
- Played a car driver in the music video for The Bangles' "Going Down to Liverpool".
- Played a grumpy version of himself in the alternate music video for Bruno Mars's "The Lazy Song".
- "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins", as mentioned above, has gained notoriety.
- Appeared on an early promotional laserdisc promoting Magnavox's "MagnaVision" laserdisc players.note Furthermore, this was done in a science fiction setting.
- Six years before Star Trek he appeared in eight episodes of Sea Hunt.
- Five years before Star Trek he appeared in The Twilight Zone episode "A Quality of Mercy" (1961)
- Paris in Mission: Impossible
- Tom Kovack in Baffled!, 1973, a made-for-TV movie intended as a pilot for a Paranormal Detective series.
- He was also the narrator on In Search of..., a paranormal documentary series that came on between 1976 and 1982. Was parodied on Saturday Night Live during its eighth season (on the episode hosted by Ron Howard) with Joe Piscopo as Nimoy.
- William Bell on Fringe.
- Voiced himself on two episodes of The Simpsons: season four's "Marge vs. The Monorail" and season eight's "The Springfield Files" (a.k.a "the Crossover episode with Mulder and Scully from The X-Files")
- Voiced a Spock action figure in The Big Bang Theory episode "The Transporter Malfunction".
- Hosted Standby: Lights, Camera, Action!, a 1980s Nickelodeon behind-the-scenes series documenting the making of movies.
- The villain's put-upon secretary in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Project Strigas Affair." The episode also featured William Shatner, two years before Star Trek, although the two share the screen only briefly.
- Villain of the Week, Doctor Barry Mayfield, in Columbo episode "A Stitch in Crime" (1973).
- Moundshroud in the Hanna-Barbera TV special The Halloween Tree.
- My Fair Lady
- Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- The King and I
- The Man in the Glass Booth
- Twelfth Night
- Sherlock Holmes
- Vincent (as the only character Theo van Gogh, Vincent's brother)
- Narrated a quotation related to each discovered technology in the base game of Civilization IVnote , including..."Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep."—Sputnik I
- Master Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts, specifically in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance].
- The narrator in the Dreamcast game Seaman.
Leonard Nimoy and his works provide examples of:
- Ambiguously Jewish: Nimoy imbued Spock with this by basing the Vulcan salute and its accompanying greetings "Live long and prosper" and "Peace and long life" on the hand gesture Kohanimnote used when delivering the Priestly Blessing. (In a sly reference, he would later read part of the Blessing as the tech quote for Priesthood in Civilization IV.)
- Becoming the Mask: Discussed in his autobiographies, I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock.
- Big Beautiful Woman: He did a series of photographs featuring a group of burlesque dancers called "The Fat Bottom Revue".
- Catchphrase: Nimoy adopted Spock's classic greeting "Live long and prosper" and accompanying hand gesture for use in real life. He even signed all his tweets with "LLAP".
- Clint Squint: Was the default state of his eyes. All the better to compliment the Fascinating Eyebrow.
- Cool Old Guy: In his later years, he was the epitome of this trope, both onscreen and in real life.
- Fascinating Eyebrow: His reaction shots as Spock using these are the stuff of legend. Hail to the Master.
- Guttural Growler: Particularly in his later villainous roles, his voice had a unique and impressive quality, rumbling and growling like he's older than the Earth itself.
- Hollywood New England: Born and raised in Boston, his accent sneaked in from time to time. This was portrayed in the introduction of the Mugar Omni Theater at the Boston Museum of Science.
- I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: Which helps him become a Trope Namer...
- I Am Not Spock: ...Through he later wrote a follow-up book I Am Spock.
- Identical Stranger: Richard Michelson, the art gallery owner who exhibits and sells Leonard's photography, has commented that not only did he feel Leonard was a father figure of sorts, but that he was often mistaken for Leonard's son when appearing in public together. It's not hard to see why.◊
- Intergenerational Friendship: His "Prime" Spock had this kind of relationship with Zachary Quinto's Spock. This crossed to some extent to real life, too; the latter was approved by Nimoy himself to be the successor to the role of Spock and the two became good friends.
- Large Ham: Nimoy was clearly having the time of his life while voicing the Big Bad of the Kingdom Hearts series, Master Xehanort. His hamminess was so legendary, it gave the likes of James Woods, BRIAN BLESSED, Billy Zane, and Paul St. Peter a run for their money.
- The Mentor: His "Prime" Spock had this kind of relationship with Zachary Quinto's Spock. This crossed to some extent to real life, too; the latter was approved by Nimoy himself to be the successor to the role of Spock.
- Nice Guy: Leonard Nimoy was a kind, decent guy who was respectful, friendly, and affectionate towards his friends and fans.