[WASHINGTON] Leonard Nimoy, the actor behind one of pop culture's most famous and distinctive fictional characters, the half-human, half-alien Mr Spock in the "Star Trek" television series and films, has died. He was 83.
He died Friday at his home in Los Angeles, according to an e-mailed statement from the actor's representative, the Gersh Agency in Beverly Hills, California. The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he attributed to the cigarette habit he had quit 30 years before.
As the Vulcan science officer Spock, Nimoy was part of the "Star Trek" crew of the fictional USS Enterprise on its five-year mission in the 23rd century "to seek out new life and civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before." The show, which aired on NBC from 1966 to 1969 before being canceled after 79 episodes, became a cult hit in syndication and led to Nimoy and co-stars including William Shatner and George Takei reprising their roles in several feature films, with Nimoy directing two. He most recently appeared as an elderly Spock in director JJ Abrams' 2009 and 2013 big screen reboots of the "Star Trek" franchise.
Spock, with his large pointy ears and arched eyebrows, introduced many of the show's hallmarks: the V-shaped hand salute of the Vulcan race, their "live long and prosper" farewell and disdain for anything "illogical," and an ability to share thoughts through a "mind meld" and paralyze an enemy with a pinch of the neck.
Nominated for Emmy awards for each of the show's three seasons, Nimoy created a character that won honors of his own. Cable television's Bravo channel named Spock No 21 on its list of 100 greatest television characters in 2004 (with Shatner's Capt. James T. Kirk at No. 9). The Chicago Tribune ranked Spock seventh on its 1995 list of the 25 greatest characters, noting, "He made being calm and smart - not to mention having pointed ears - cool."
Leonard Simon Nimoy was born in Boston on March 26, 1931, the second of two sons of Russian Jewish immigrants Max Nimoy, a barber, and his wife, Dora Spinner. He was raised in the city's immigrant tenement West End, "a Jewish kid living in a mostly Italian neighborhood," as he described it, and sang in his synagogue choir.
He began acting at age 8 at a local theater, and following high school moved to California to study drama at the Pasadena Playhouse. While working in an ice-cream parlor he sought acting work, landing the title role in "Kid Monk Baroni" (1952), as a gang member who become a professional boxer.
During a two-year stint in the US Army starting in 1953, Nimoy trained in infantry before reassigned as an entertainment specialist, directing and hosting radio, television and stage shows for soldiers.
After his discharge he appeared in an episode of "The Lieutenant," which aired on NBC in 1963-1964 and was created by Gene Roddenberry. A few weeks after the shooting, Nimoy recalled, his agent got a call from Roddenberry about a part in a new science-fiction show he was developing.
"The character hadn't been completely fleshed out yet," Nimoy wrote in his memoir, "but Gene was adamant about one thing: Spock had to be obviously extra-terrestrial, in order to visually emphasize that this was the 23rd century and these were interplanetary, not just international, crew members aboard a space ship." Of the major characters introduced in the first "Star Trek" pilot, which starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike and which NBC deemed not ready for prime time, only Nimoy's Spock was retained for a second pilot, which got the green light with Shatner's Kirk in command.
Nimoy said Spock's trademark restraint began crystallizing in a first-season episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver," when the director, Joe Sargent, advised him to be "cool and curious, a scientist" when uttering the word "fascinating." The delivery became one of Spock's trademarks.
When confronted with a script calling on Spock to assault an evil version of Kirk, Nimoy came up with the non-violent alternative, the disabling Vulcan nerve pinch. And when Spock returned to his home planet for a mating ritual, Nimoy again went off script, and into his own Jewish upbringing, to create a V-shaped hand salute representing the Hebrew letter shin, which begins the word Shaddai, or God.
With his first wife, the former Sandra Zober, Nimoy had two children, Julie and Adam. That marriage ended in divorce, and she died in 2011, according to a notice in the Los Angeles Times. He married actress Susan Bay in 1989.
His survivors include his wife, children and grandchildren, according to the Gersh Agency statement.
"A life is like a garden," Nimoy said on Twitter on Feb 23. "Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP." The abbreviation stands for "live long and prosper," a Vulcan greeting.