The son of a Boston barber, Leonard Nimoy was a star at the age of 8, when he played Hansel in a children's theatre production of Hansel and Gretel. Nimoy remained with his local kiddie theater troupe until 16 (one of his directors during this period was Boris Sagal). After studying drama at Boston College and Antioch College, he took acting lessons from Jeff Corey at the Pasadena Playhouse. In films from 1950, Nimoy played the title character in the low-budget Kid Monk Baroni and essayed bits and minor roles in such productions as Zombies of the Stratosphere (1951), Rhubarb (1951) and Them! (1954). In between acting assignments, he held down a dizzying variety of jobs: soda jerk, newspaper carrier, vacuum-cleaner salesman, vending machine mechanic, pet-shop clerk, cabbie and acting coach. During his 18 months in Special Services at Fort McPherson, Georgia, he acted with Atlanta Theater Guild when he could spare the time. Back in Hollywood in 1956, he became virtually a regular at the Ziv TV studios, playing villains in programs like Highway Patrol and Sea Hunt. For a short while, he specialized in the plays of Jean Genet, appearing in both the stage and film productions of The Balcony and Deathwatch. Impressed by Nimoy's guest turn on a 1963 episode of The Lieutenant, producer Gene Roddenberry vowed to cast the saturnine, mellow-voiced actor as an extraterrestrial if ever given the chance. That chance came two years later, when Roddenberry signed Nimoy to play Vulcanian science officer Spock on Star Trek. At first pleased at the assignment, Nimoy came to resent the apparent fact that the public perceived him as Spock and nothing else: indeed, one of his many written works was the slim autobiography I Am Not Spock. After Star Trek's cancellation, Nimoy joined the cast of Mission: Impossible in the role of "master of disguise" Paris (he replaced the series' previous master of disguise Martin Landau, who ironically had originally been slated to play Spock). In the early 1970s, Nimoy began racking up directorial credits on such series as Night Gallery. He also made his first Broadway appearance in 1973's Full Circle. And, perhaps inevitably, he returned to Spock, thanks to the popular demand engendered by the then-burgeoning Star Trek cult. His initial reacquaintance with the role was as voiceover artist on the 1973 Saturday-morning cartoon version of Star Trek. Then Spock went on the back burner again as Nimoy devoted himself to his theatrical commitments (a touring production of Sherlock Holmes, his one-man show Vincent), his writing and directing activities, and his hosting chores on the long-running (1976-82) TV documentary series In Search Of.... Finally in 1978, Nimoy was back in his Enterprise uniform in the first of several Star Trek theatrical features. The Spock character was killed off in the second Trek picture The Wrath of Khan, but Nimoy stayed with the franchise as director of the next two feature-length Trek entries (PS: Spock also came back to life). He went on to direct such non-Trek filmic endeavors as 3 Men and a Baby (1987), The Good Mother (1988), Funny About Love (1990) and Holy Matrimony (1994). He also produced and acted in the 1991 TV movie Never Forget, and served as executive producer of the 1995 UPN network series Deadly Games. Perhaps because he will always have dozens of professional irons in the fire, Leonard Nimoy now seems resigned to being forever associated with the role that brought him international fame; his most recent autobiographical work was aptly titled I Am Spock. In 2009 he returned to his iconic role portraying Spock in J.J. Abrams smash-hit reboot of the Star Trek franchise. He next took on a recurring role in the sci-fi series Fringe, playing scientist William Bell. Nimoy made a final cameo appearance in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). He died in 2015, at age 83.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- His parents were Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants who escaped from Stalinist Russia.
- Appeared in his first play, Hansel and Gretel, at the age of 8.
- After a two-year stint in the Army, enrolled at California's Pasadena Playhouse.
- His appearance in an episode of the series The Lieutenant caught the eye of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who cast him in the role of Mr. Spock.
- Directed the big-screen outings Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), as well as the hit comedy Three Men and a Baby.
- Created the "live long and prosper" Vulcan salute, based on a Jewish blessing he'd seen as a child.
- Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985.
- Has published collections of poetry and two autobiographies.