He was a director. An activist. A photographer. Sometimes even a singer.
But to the world of Star Trek, he was Mr. Spock.
Leonard Nimoy, the man who first brought the green-blooded, pointy-eared Vulcan to life nearly 50 years ago, died Friday. He was 83.
Nimoy had been rushed to a California hospital last week with severe chest pains, but was released a short time later. Susan Bay Nimoy confirmed her husband’s death with The New York Times, saying he was in end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Nimoy revealed his battle with COPD late last year when photographers caught him being wheeled through an airport with an oxygen tank. The actor took the news in stride, saying that despite giving up smoking three decades earlier, he still ended up battling the condition that would limit his ability to breathe properly.
That wasn’t surprising from Nimoy who, despite many statements that he had retired, would continue to find ways to come back to television and movie sets. His return as Spock in the 2009 film “Star Trek” played a key role in the overall reboot of the franchise, allowing him to hand the character cleanly over to the younger Zachary Quinto. Yet, Nimoy couldn’t stay away, and made a cameo appearance as Spock in the 2013 sequel, “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”
Nimoy joined the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry with having the singular distinction of being the only two actors to appear in both the pilot and final episode of the original “Star Trek” series. In fact, Nimoy was the only actor in the main cast to also appear in every episode of the original show.
Yet, Nimoy seemed to struggle with the fame his character brought. When Paramount Pictures tried to resurrect the Trek television series in the 1970s, Nimoy declined to participate. That prompted Paramount to move forward with plans to introduce a new Vulcan, named Xon.
However, when “Star Trek: Phase II” was canceled during pre-production and a new motion picture was planned instead, Paramount was able to persuade Nimoy to reprise his popular role — only to ask for him to be killed off in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
But even Nimoy, who would write the book “I Am Not Spock,” couldn’t stay away. He not only allowed his character to be resurrected in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” he also directed the film. And directing would become a new passion for Nimoy, which he would get a little taste of in the early 1980s in television series like his friend William Shatner’s show, “T.J. Hooker.”
Nimoy would go on to direct other films, the most popular being 1987’s “3 Men and a Baby,” starring Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck. His final directorial work would come in 1995 with the short-lived series “Deadly Games.”
Leonard Nimoy was born March 13, 1931, in Boston to Ukranian Jewish immigrants. He got his start in 1951 in the Arthur Lubin-directed “Queen for a Day” starring an ensemble cast that included Darren McGavin and Phyllis Avery. He would spend the 1950s as a character actor, appearing in shows like “Dragnet” and “The Rough Riders.”
Nimoy would begin to see regular work with “Sea Hunt,” the early television vehicle for Lloyd Bridges, appearing in eight episodes between 1958 and 1960.
He joined the cast of “Star Trek” in 1966, after appearing in the original pilot. His character was the only one that survived going into the second pilot, which recast the captain from Jeffrey Hunter to William Shatner. As stars of “Star Trek,” and because of other things in common like birthdays and Jewish backgrounds, Nimoy and Shatner would become lifelong friends, even to the point where they would negotiate Star Trek appearances together.
After Trek, Nimoy became a regular on “Mission: Impossible” as Paris, and then would lend his voice to “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”
As the original Enterprise crew looked to retire their characters in the early 1990s with “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” Nimoy broke the unofficial boycott of current Trek television imposed by the primary original cast by making a guest appearance on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” By coincidence, those episodes aired right after Trek creator Gene Roddenberry died in 1991.
Although Nimoy announced his retirement from acting in the early 2000s, he became a regular on the Fox cult series “Fringe,” playing the elusive William Bell. His final credit would come in 2013 with “Into Darkness.”
Besides acting and directing, Nimoy also thought of himself as an author. Besides “I Am Not Spock,” which was not creating as much distance between Nimoy and his popular character as many fans thought, he also wrote “I Am Spock” 20 years later. He would later publish other books containing both poetry and photography.
Nimoy was married twice, first to Sandra Zober between 1954 and 1987, and later to Susan Bay, who became his wife in 1989, and who survives him. He’s also survived by two children, director Adam Nimoy and daughter Julie Nimoy.