Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died Friday at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.
His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.
His artistic pursuits – poetry, photography and music in addition to acting – ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing, “Live long and prosper.”
Nimoy relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.
Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1977, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995.
“Star Trek,” which premiered on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’.”
Although the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cultlike following of “Trekkies” coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.
The fans’ devotion only deepened when “Star Trek” was spun off into an animated show, new series and movies starring much of the original TV cast, including – besides Nimoy – William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig.
Shortly after word got out about Nimoy’s death, Takei and Shatner mourned the passing of their close friend.
Shatner tweeted a photo of the two of them, with this caption: “I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love.”
Takei got on the phone with MSNBC, as host Kristen Welker asked him to share what he wants the public to remember about Nimoy.
“You know, the word ‘extraordinary’ is often overused, but I think it’s really appropriate for Leonard,” Takei said. “He was an extraordinarily talented man, but he was also a very decent human being. His talent embraced directing as well as acting and photography. He was a very sensitive man. And we feel his passing very much. He had been ill for a long, long time. And we miss him very much.”
Nimoy’s zeal to entertain and enlighten reached beyond “Star Trek” and crossed genres. He had a starring role in the dramatic television series “Mission: Impossible” and frequently performed onstage, notably as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” His poetry was voluminous, and he published books of his photography.
He also directed movies, including two from the “Star Trek” franchise, and television shows. And he made records, on which he sang pop songs, as well as original songs about “Star Trek,” and gave spoken-word performances.
Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews.
Nimoy’s marriage to actress Sandi Zober ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Adam and Julie Nimoy; a stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck; six grandchildren; one great-grandchild, and an older brother, Melvin.
Includes reporting from the Washington Post.