Nimoy served in the U.S. Army Reserve, receiving final discharge in November, 1955 as a Sergeant. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, Nimoy's U.S. Army service record was destroyed in the 1973 National Archives Fire.
Nimoy has long been active in the Jewish community, and is an adherent of Reform Judaism. One of his better-known roles was that of Tevye the milkman, in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on the series of short stories by Yiddish author Sholom Aleichem. In 1997 he narrated the documentary A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, about the various sects of Hasidic Orthodox Jews. In October 2002 Nimoy published Shekhina, a photographic study of women intended to visualize the feminine aspect of God's presence, inspired by Kabbalah (esoteric Jewish mysticism.)
Stage and screen
Nimoy's most famous role is the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek television series (1966-69). He earned three Emmy nominations for playing this character. In a strange twist of fate, Nimoy and William Shatner (who would go on to play Spock's commanding officer, Captain James T. Kirk), found themselves on the opposite side of the Iron Curtain in the 1964 episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. "The Project Strigas Affair". With his saturnine looks, Nimoy was predictably the villain, with the slightly sleazy Shatner playing a reluctant U.N.C.L.E. recruit. Nimoy went on to reprise Spock's character in a voice-over role in Star Trek: The Animated Series, in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and in six Star Trek motion pictures featuring the original cast.
Following the cancellation of the original Trek, Nimoy played a spy called Paris in the hit television series Mission Impossible from 1969-71. Although Nimoy said he enjoyed working with Peter Graves and other cast members, he regarded Mission Impossible as one of the low points of his career. He considered the work boring and unchallenging. He has often said there are times he barely remembers doing the show. It was during the run of the show that Nimoy fell deathly ill with a stomach ulcer. Only expert medical attention saved his life.
He co-starred with Yul Brynner and Richard Crenna in the Western movie Catlow (1971). Nimoy also appeared in various made for television films in this period such as Assault On The Wayne (1970), Baffled (1972), The Alpha Caper (1973), The Missing Are Deadly (1974), Seizure: The Story Of Kathy Morris (1980), Marco Polo (1982) and he received an Emmy award nomination for best supporting actor for the TV film A Woman Called Golda (1982). In the late 1970s he hosted and narrated the television series In Search of..., which investigated paranormal or unexplained events or subjects. He also has a memorable part as a new-age psychologist in Philip Kaufman's remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was during this time that Nimoy won acclaim for a series of stage roles as well. He has appeared in such plays as Oliver!, The King And I, The Man in the Glass Booth, Caligula, and Sherlock Holmes. When a new TV series of Star Trek was planned in the late 1970s Nimoy refused to be involved but when it was elevated to a feature film, he agreed to reprise his most famous role.
After directing a few television show episodes, Nimoy broke into film directing in 1984 with the successful third installment of the Star Trek film series (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock). Nimoy would go on to direct Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and move beyond the Trek universe with Three Men and a Baby in 1987. Nimoy also did occasional work as a voice actor in animated feature films including the character of Galvatron in Transformers: The Movie in 1986 and The Pagemaster in 1994.
Nimoy has written two autobiographies, the first one called I Am Not Spock (1977). The title of this book was controversial, as many fans incorrectly assumed that Nimoy was distancing himself from the Spock character; however, Nimoy's stated intention was merely to remind the public at large that Spock and Nimoy were not one and the same.
His second autobiography was entitled I Am Spock (1995), and this title was meant to communicate that he finally realized that his years of portraying the Spock character had led to a much greater identification between the fictional character and the real person. Over the years, Nimoy had much input into how Spock would act in certain situations, and, conversely, Nimoy's contemplation of how Spock acted gave him cause to think about things in a way that he never would have thought if he had not portrayed this character. As such, in this autobiography Nimoy maintains that in some meaningful sense, he really is now Spock, and Spock is him, while at the same time maintaining the distance between fact and fiction.
During and following the Star Trek years, Nimoy also released several albums of vocal recordings on Dot Records, including Trek-related songs and cover versions of popular tunes. These recordings are generally regarded as being unintentionally campy, though his tongue-in-cheek performance of "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" received a fair amount of airplay when Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films were released.
- Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space (Dot Records), (1967).
- The Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy (Dot Records), (1968).
- The Way I Feel (Dot Records), (1968).
- The Touch of Leonard Nimoy (Dot Records), (1969).
- The New World of Leonard Nimoy (Dot Records), (1970).
See also Leonard Nimoy's discography (including compilations and re-issues).
In 2003, he announced his retirement from acting in order to concentrate on his photography, but has subsequently appeared in several popular TV commercials with William Shatner for Priceline.com. Nimoy also provided audio clips for the 2005 computer game Civilization IV
Filmography as director
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- Three Men and a Baby (1987)
- The Good Mother (1988)
- Funny About Love (1990)
- Holy Matrimony (1994)
- episodes of T.J. Hooker, The Powers of Matthew Star, Deadly Games, and The Simpsons
- Nimoy came up with the Vulcan nerve pinch during the discussion of an early Star Trek episode where Spock was supposed to pistol-whip another character. He suggested the "pinch" as a non violent illustration of Vulcans' mysterious powers.
- Nimoy also devised the Vulcan Salute consisting of a raised hand, palm forward with the fingers parted between the middle and ring finger. It is said to be based on the traditional kohanic blessing, which is performed with both hands, thumb to thumb in this position; a position thought to represent the Hebrew letter shin (ש). (This letter is often used as a symbol of God in Judaism, as it is an abbreviation for God's name Shaddai. This usage is seen, for example, on every mezuzah.) Nimoy may also have derived the accompanying spoken blessing, "Live long and prosper" from this source, as the last phrase of the blessing is "May the Lord be forbearing unto you and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).
- The surname "Nimoy" is probably a misspelling of the Russian word немой (nemoi, pronounced "nih-MOY"), meaning "mute".
- His army service number was ER 11 229 770.
- Nimoy provided narration for the English-language version of an unusual Sega Dreamcast video game Seaman.
- A sample of Nimoy as Spock saying "Pure Energy" was used in the 1987 Information Society dance hit "What's On Your Mind?" Usage of digital samples in pop music was almost unheard of at the time and the rights issues proved difficult, but the band was eventually allowed to use this and other Star Trek clips in part thanks to the efforts of Leonard's son Adam, who was working as a copyright lawyer and was a friend-of-a-friend of the band.
- Nimoy provides voice-overs for the Computer Game: Civilization IV
- "Let's see if this actually works", said on an episode of Futurama regarding the Vulcan neck pinch
- "Visual contact established. Requesting permission to land." sampled on Space Tribe track entitled "Machine Elf" (TIP Records, 1996)
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- Leonard Nimoy Official Fan Club
- Leonard Nimoy's Photography
- "Thanks to Leonard Nimoy" an extensive fan site