Remembering Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015
StarTrek.com is deeply saddened to report the passing of Leonard Nimoy. The legend -- an actor, writer, producer, director, poet, host, voiceover artist, photographer, patron of the arts, philanthropist, husband, father and grandfather, as well as Star Trek's beloved Spock -- died today at the age of 83 at his home in Los Angeles. Nimoy succumbed to the end stages of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), an illness that resulted from years of smoking and which afflicted him despite having quit smoking more than three decades ago. In 2014, he announced via Twitter that he was battling COPD and frequently implored fans to stop smoking before it was too late.
Nimoy's career spanned generations. Born and raised in Boston, he started acting as a boy, but moved to Los Angeles at age 18 to give it a go on a professional level. He worked his way up from small roles in the likes of Queen for a Day, Zombies of the Stratosphere and Them! to major guest star turns in such shows as Broken Arrow, Dragnet, Sea Hunt, The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train and The Outer Limits. At one point, he acted in an episode of The Lieutenant, a show written and created by a rising behind-the-scenes talent named Gene Roddenberry, and he acted in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with a young Canadian by the name of William Shatner.
It wouldn't be long before their lives intersected again. Roddenberry created Star Trek: The Original Series, tapping Nimoy to play the half-human/half-Vulcan Spock and Jeffrey Hunter to play Captain Pike. NBC rejected the pilot, but asked Roddenberry to try again. The second pilot once again featured Nimoy as Spock, but after Hunter opted out of his contract, Roddenberry hired Shatner to play Captain Kirk. DeForest Kelley, who'd turned down the role of Spock, came on board to portray Dr. McCoy, and that unforgettable trio -- complemented by Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei and, starting with season two, Walter Koenig -- formed the cast that would see Star Trek through three seasons of the original show, 20-plus episodes of an animated series and six feature films, not to mention numerous television commercials and countless convention appearances.
Nimoy at times waged an internal battle when it came to Spock, the pointy-eared, logic-driven character he'd made his own and had imbued with so much humanity. In fact, Nimoy's characterization inspired countless young people who felt like outsiders or, quite literally... aliens, not to just to carry on, but to thrive. Still, he titled his first autobiography I Am Not Spock. Twenty years later, though, he wrote I Am Spock. He turned down the proposed Star Trek: Phase II series, but reluctantly returned for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Spock died saving the Enterprise in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, only to be resurrected for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which Nimoy directed. He also directed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and produced and developed the story for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and, as a tie-in, he guest starred as Ambassador Spock on two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And in 2009, after 18 long years, Nimoy helped J.J. Abrams reboot the Star Trek franchise by playing Spock Prime in Star Trek (2009), passing the torch to Zachary Quinto, whose casting he'd approved and who became a close friend. He also voiced Spock for Star Trek Online, made a cameo in Star Trek Into Darkness and was reportedly in talks to appear in the upcoming Star Trek film at the time of his death.
Beyond Star Trek, Nimoy's many film, TV and stage credits included Mission: Impossible, A Woman Called Golda, In Search Of..., Equus, Never Forget, Vincent, Standby: Lights! Camera! Action!, The Simpsons, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and a juicy, late-career recurring role on the J.J. Abrams-produced series Fringe. He also directed such features as Three Men and a Baby, which was a huge hit, and The Good Mother, a drama that he always spoke of with tremendous pride. With his friend and TNG's Q, John de Lancie, he created Alien Voices, which staged and recorded radio play-style productions of classic and original sci-fi/fantasy stories. And yes, who could forget Nimoy's music pursuits, which included several albums and such tunes as "Proud Mary" and "The Legend of Bilbo Baggins"? Nimoy joined Twitter in 2010 and gave William Shatner a run for his money, tweeting more than 1,700 times and amassing more than one million followers.
He was also a friend to StarTrek.com. Nimoy helped re-launch the site in 2010 with an opening statement, granting an extensive, career-spanning interview in 2011, contributing a guest blog in 2012 about his creation of the split-fingered Vulcan greeting, and checking in with us often over the years for interviews and with updates on his current projects, as well as to answer specific questions about Star Trek as they came up. He ended his emails to us as he did every tweet to the public, with the acronym LLAP... Live Long and Prosper.
Back in May 2012, StarTrek.com teased Nimoy about being the busiest retired man in history. Asked if he truly considered himself retired, Nimoy replied, "Yeah, I do. I am. Look, I liken myself to a steamship that's been going full-blast and the captain pulls that handle back and then says, 'Full stop,' but the ship doesn't stop. It keeps moving from inertia. It keeps moving. It keeps moving. It'll start slowing down, but it doesn't stop. It doesn't come to a dead stop. That's the way I am. I still have a few odds and ends things that I enjoy doing. I don't want to get up in the morning and have nothing to do that day. That would be boring." Perfectly logical, right? And in a touching final tweet, which he posted on Feb. 23 and with which he was likely bidding farewell, Nimoy wrote, "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP."
Nimoy leaves behind his wife, Susan Bay, two children from a previous marriage, a stepson, several grandchildren and a great grandchild. Please join StarTrek.com in offering our condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and millions of fans around the galaxy.