We regret to bring you the news that Leonard Nimoy, the beloved Star Trek actor and geek icon for nearly fifty years, has passed away today, about a month before he would’ve celebrated his 84th birthday.
Nimoy’s wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed that he passed away after checking in to the hospital earlier this week, due to chest pains resulting from him having reached the end-stage of chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease (something Nimoy attributed to his years of smoking before he gave up the habit three decades ago).
Nimoy was born Leonard Simon Nimoy in West End Boston, Massachusetts, on March 26th, 1931, and his parents (Max and Dora) were an Orthodox Jewish couple who had immigrated to the United States. He studied drama at Boston College (though he did not complete his studies) and began acting briefly in the early 1950s, before he served as a sergeant in the United States Army from 1953-55.
Following his appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, Get Smart, Bonanza, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (as well as supporting roles in a number of films), Nimoy was cast in Gene Roddenberry’s first Star Trek TV show pilot as Spock – the accomplished part-human, part-Vulcan officer on the Starship U.S.S. Enterprise – and ended up holding onto the role for the second pilot too.
He would go on to play Mr. Spock in all 79 episodes of the original Star Trek TV show (which ran from 1966-69), before reprising the role in the first six Star Trek movies, subsequent Trek live-action TV shows (and the short-lived animated series), and even Trek video games. Most recently, Nimoy portrayed the older version of the Spock character in director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie franchise reboot, before he also reprised the character in the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness.
Nimoy’s contributions to the Star Trek franchise extended behind the camera too, as he ended up directing two of the film installments (The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home) in addition to writing the screen stories for both The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, despite being so heavily invested in the Trek property and inspirational to even people outside the Trek fandom – many an astronaut has cited Spock as an inspiration – Nimoy did have mixed feelings about his Trek fame and the attention it brought him.
Case in point, Nimoy published the auto-biography “I Am Not Spock” in 1977, reflecting his feeling that his serious non-Trek work (which included teaching method acting and work in the music industry) was being ignored. However, as the years went by, Nimoy admitted to growing increasingly comfortable with his Trek fame, even as he continued to work on other projects – like, directing the 1987 box office hit Three Men and a Baby. This, in turn, inspired Nimoy to publish a second memoir in 1995, with a title (“I Am Spock”) that symbolized his changed attitude.
Geek status firmly cemented, Nimoy spent the last couple decades of his life not just working on Trek-related material, but lending his voice to a variety of fan-favorite properties – ranging from the animated TV show Futurama to The Simpsons (playing himself) and animated feature such as Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. He also played a memorable recurring role as the mysterious Dr. William Bell on the TV series Fringe (from 2009-12) and continued to lend his voice to geek properties thereafter – including, video game Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon (where he voiced Sentinel Prime).
Nimoy, of course, didn’t just help to get multiple genereations interested in space exploration and charting new scientific frontiers (see also: Nimoy’s time hosting for the quasi-docomentuary TV series In Search Of…). His work as the Mr. Spock character was also an inspiration to geeks of all shades in pursuing their own dreams, as well as so many people who appreciated his fine work – and related to Mr. Spock in a way that they wouldn’t have otherwise, had someone else handled the role (see: Nimoy’s touching letter to a troubled biracial teenager).
You can read many of the touching tributes that have already been paid to Nimoy by his fellow actors, including longtime Star Trek costar George Takei. Below, we’ve embedded the final message Nimoy posted to his official Twitter account (followed by Nimoy’s longtime friend/Star Trek costar William Shatner’s Twitter message):
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015
"I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love." -William Shatner http://t.co/U8ZN98tVYp— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) February 27, 2015
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Leonard Nimoy’s family and friends in their time of grieving. Like so many others, the Screen Rant staff wishes you the best and will join in the chorus: Live Long and Prosper.
R.I.P. Leonard Simon Nimoy: March 26th, 1931 – February 27th, 2015.