Nimoy Passes ‘Star Trek’ Torch
For more than 40 years, science fiction fans have known Leonard Nimoy as Spock, the half-Vulcan Starfleet officer who cut his teeth aboard the starship Enterprise. This week, Nimoy, who lives part-time at Lake Tahoe, is passing the torch to Zachary Quinto, a sharp-featured young actor who plays Spock in the new "Star Trek" feature film.
"He looks a lot like me but much more important, he's a very talented and very sensitive actor, and I think he does a wonderful job," Nimoy says. "We spent a lot of time together, social time. We had dinner together two or three times. He came to my house for lunch two or three times. We had lengthy conversations. ... I didn't give him any specific instruction. I didn't say, 'Do this or don't do that.' It was really very general and about the philosophy of the character and the psychological makeup of the character."
The new film, which opened nationwide Thursday night, is set prior to the original "Star Trek" series, and it considers the early days of Spock, Captain James T. Kirk and the series' other beloved characters. Along with Quinto and Nimoy, the film stars Chris Pine as Kirk, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov.
"They're all extremely talented people," Nimoy says. "I don't know that every one of them looks exactly as much like their characters as Zachary does look like me. But I think by the time the movie is over you accept them all as the people they present themselves to be."
Although the focus is on the early years of the characters' lives, Nimoy says his involvement — playing older Spock — was significant.
"I guess I'm in about 25 to 35 percent of it," he says. "It's more than a cameo and less than a major role."
Nimoy says he was pleased to be part of the project and even more pleased with director J.J. Abrams' final product.
"I think it's going to be a fantastic crowd-pleaser," he says. "It's a gigantic movie in terms of its scale, but it also — and this is really special — has great heart with the characters right in the center of it. That's not easy to accomplish. There are a lot of directors who can do the big thing, and there are a lot of directors who can do the very personal thing, but there are not a lot of directors who can do both, and this movie has accomplished that."
Nimoy also promises some surprises for long-time fans.
"There are at least two very specific things that I'm thinking about at the moment, maybe even more than that," he says. "They're worked out in a very intelligent way and I think very effective."
Interest in the original "Star Trek" television series, which aired from 1966 to 1969 and spawned several movies, has never disappeared but movies and spinoff series have shoved it out of the spotlight. Nimoy thinks that's about to change.
"I'm sure there are a lot of people who will go back to the original series and take a look and see what this was all about," he says, "people who had not paid attention in the past."
Although the hype and media attention surrounding this week's "Trek" release have kept Nimoy busy for weeks, he is already looking toward his next project.
"I'm also committed to do some work on the 'Fringe' series," he says. "I'm doing the character who's been referred to in the series in the past but never been seen before, a character named William Bell. He is the head of Massive Dynamics, a very powerful figure, a very secretive figure. I did one scene shot in New York a couple weeks ago, which will be in the final episode of the season of this year ... and I've committed to do at least two more episodes for the coming season."
Nimoy, 78, has said in the past that he isn't interested in acting or directing jobs that require long-term travel, but he says working on "Fringe" and "Star Trek" has been a pleasure.
"I'm particularly pleased with these projects," he says, "because I think the people involved are very talented, and that makes it fun."