Interview: Adam Nimoy on his father Leonard, growing up with Star Trek and his doco For The Love Of Spock

When the unimaginable happens and a timeless fictional character is killed off in a favourite book, TV series or film, it can hurt. Spending so many hours sitting down and completely losing yourself in a fantasy world, whether on page or screen, can take its toll.

leonard-nimoy

When an actor of that very timeless character dies in real life, it absolutely tears you apart from the inside out. This person, this man or woman that has been with you for most of your life, the person you have probably never even met, brings you to your knees in a quiet and most of the time, isolated sorrow.

That is the power of story-telling in all its beautiful forms. It is a true testament when one can feel so much for a human being that has brought their favourite character to life.

The passing of the legendary Leonard Nimoy showed this very testament. He didn’t just play a fictional alien and science officer on board a Starship full of dreams, he was the heart and soul of that character and ‘Spock’ was his name.

As the documentary For The Love of Spock states, which screens as part of the Sci-Fi Film Festival in Australia from later this month, Spock was an embodiment of everyone who has ever faced hardships due to being different – a geek, a nerd, having a disability or even for many who never had a real family and may have felt out of place. Leonard Nimoy and his ‘Spock’ defined a generation; a character who helped lead the popularity of the longest running Science Fiction series of all time, Star Trek. But, not many of us knew the real Leonard Nimoy.

For The Love of Spock was Directed by Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy’s son, with Leonard himself working on the project until he passed in 2015. Adam wanted to tell a story that showed his Dad’s life on and off film. Showing the beginnings of his career, his family life and sometimes the hardships that came with being the son of the legendary Spock.

Leonard Nimoy and Adam Nimoy - Image Courtesy of Jewish Business News
Leonard Nimoy and Adam Nimoy – Image Courtesy of Jewish Business News

I recent had the chance to catch up with Adam Nimoy over Skype and discuss the film, his father and his time as a kid on the set of Star Trek. We get to know a little bit more about Adam Nimoy and I also get the chance to ask what the Nimoy’s thoughts were on that other popular sci-fi series, Star Wars.

I am so honoured to be speaking with you Adam. Not only because it was your father Leonard and his character of Spock that defined an entire generation of people including myself and how they perceived others, but I whole heartedly believe that family defines who we are and any characters we portray. Without you and your family, I think we would have had a very different Spock on screen.

I appreciate you saying that, thank you.

Watching For The Love of Spock, I am amazed at how many odd jobs your Dad had when not filming Star Trek. Setting up fish tanks in the community, fixing things around the home and of course his singing. I know you both had some bad history together but, other than being your dad and of course Mr Spock, what were some of your better memories you had with him? Was there one or two moments that stick with you to this day above all others?

Most of my great memories were with him while making Star Trek and being on set with him during the filming of a few episodes. That was a big highlight of my life. You have to understand this was the very first time my dad was in a starring role on a continuing TV series. They started filming in the summer of 1966, when I was out of school during summer vacation. I turned 10-years-old that year and it was such a very exciting time for me.

Adam Nimoy on set with his Father Leonard (Mr Spock)
Adam Nimoy on set with his Father Leonard (Mr Spock)

After that he then went on to make two seasons of the Mission Impossible TV series playing Paris and we then went to Almeria in Spain where we were there while he made a film with Yul Brynner called Catlow, that was a big highlight. After that we were touring all over the east coast of the states with the musical Fiddler On the Roof, that was another great high-point in our lives together.

Leonard Nimoy on Mission Impossible in1969
Leonard Nimoy on Mission Impossible in 1969

In the late 70’s, Dad was filming Invasion of the Body Snatchers in San Francisco when I was at school nearby in Berkeley, California. He also did stage work on Broadway in New York. So many great memories, so many wonderful experiences. Just travelling around with him and being his ‘groupie’, I just loved watching him because he was so good at what he did.

So you got to spend some time with Yul Brynner of Westworld fame?

Yes, we met Yul Brynner during filming of Catlow. Yul was such an interesting character and my dad played the villain in the film in which his objective was to kill him, to kill Catlow. He didn’t quite achieve this of course.

Leonard Nimoy in Catlow 1971
Leonard Nimoy in Catlow 1971

Did any of the Star Trek crew and cast see you all outside of filming? Maybe you had William Shatner around for dinner?

No we didn’t really socialize outside of work. I did have a dinner with William Shatner a few years ago with my Dad which was lovely. I did see George Takei on a few rare occasions also, while we were working for a charitable organisation we were involved with together and there was a luncheon on one occasion for that. But no, not really regular socializing outside of work. They do still feel like family to me though, I have been with these guys now for so many years and I keep seeing them at all sorts of occasions, functions and fan conventions which I am more present at. I see them all the time now and they are all wonderful people that really make me feel like we are a family.

I know you directed some episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, my favourite of the episodes was ‘Rascals’. You have had such a diverse directing career with so many shows and episodes you have directed. Has it always been the one big passion of yours or were you aiming towards something else?

I started out as an Attorney practicing law in Los Angeles and that’s what I thought I wanted to be. But then I discovered I wanted to do something much more creative and transitioned into directing and I was fortunate to have my father helping me make that transition. I started off on The Next Generation and my first two shows were with them and that was a big learning curve obviously for me. Then I went on to direct about ten seasons of TV after that. I am greatly indebted to Star Trek for giving me that opportunity and I still see people from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise and I enjoy their company. It’s this kind of wonderful extended family to be involved with and see at all the Star Trek related events and they all have helped along the way with doing what I now love and are so generous in their time and the support they have given me on my film project and the reminiscence of my father. It’s all so great, particularly now that we are in the 50th Anniversary for Star Trek.

We know that Leonard and your mum Sandra went through a divorce in 1987, they were together for 32 Years. Your father then met Susan Bay and was with Susan for many years until his passing. When your mum Sandra passed away in 2011 it must have been a huge impact for all of you. How did Leonard take it even though they had been separated for so long?

They had been apart for so many years and after, he had a wonderfully beautiful life with Susan. I think the most interesting thing about my Dad at that point when my mother passed away, he was very supportive of my sister and myself. He was very present, helpful and connected to us even more. It really was a life changing event where my dad became a big support base for us. I am really grateful for that.

How was it visiting the set of Big Bang Theory? It must have been great knowing they had such love for Star Trek and your Dad?

It was a fabulous experience. They were lovely people and great to work with and they have such great chemistry working with each other. Everyone was happy on that show and they are obviously big Star Trek fans and of Spock. A lot of Spock references are all through The Big Bang Theory show and they were so nice and sweet to me and helpful supporting the film project. They also play a big pivotal role in the documentary For The Love of Spock.

The Kickstarter campaign that funded ‘For The Love of Spock’ raised over it’s $650,000 target. Were you surprised at how well the Kickstarter campaign went for funding your documentary?

Well David, it actually took us quite some time to raise the money for the film. We thought it would be easy. But it was rather challenging reaching the Star Trek audience, particularly the older demographic audience who are not that aware of Social Media and things like Kickstarter. So we had to really hustle. We thought we would raise it early on in the campaign but it actually didn’t happen until the last three days. I had to do a lot of press and a lot of outreach. We asked a lot of people including Bill Shatner (William Shatner) and George Takei to help us with their social media to get the word out. That really helped immensely.

It was a nail biter for a while, we didn’t realise we could make the goal and with Kickstarter, if you don’t make the goal, you don’t get a single cent. It’s amazing because the Kickstarter funding is only a 30-day campaign, but we were lucky that almost 10,000 fans stepped up to the plate and we could start the production of the film not long after that. I am so grateful to everyone and to all the fans that helped us.

On a lighter note, there has always been this silly feud between Star Trek and Star Wars. Did you and your Dad like Star Wars?

Oh yeah! There was an interview with my Dad that’s not in the film, where he talked about how impressed he was with Star Wars, how well it was made, written, produced and executed. I saw it myself when I was in New York and we both felt the same way and were so impressed with the work that George Lucas had created.

The interesting thing was in 1977 when Star Wars was released, my dad felt certain he was about to get a call from Paramount Pictures because he believed that Paramount would see the tremendous reaction to Star Wars and wanted to act on it. In-fact we had a really good friend say to us that he was now a Star Wars fan because he had waited so long for a Star Trek film and it had never happened. So my dad had a premonition he would be getting a call from Paramount about doing a Star Trek film and sure enough that is exactly what happened. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979).

Do you have any favourite TV shows at the moment?

I absolutely loved Stranger Things, who doesn’t? It was phenomenal. Other than that I am binge watching all seasons of Game of Thrones finally, fan of that show now. Not much else really right now. So much on with all the great shows available now.

Favourite Movies?

That is a good question. I love films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Galaxy Quest. I love films like that because they take the genre we all love and turn it around and show us the lighter side of science fiction.

Thank you for your time and again congratulations on such a great documentary and insight to your wonderful father Leonard Nimoy.

Thank you for your time and I really appreciate it. I believe we will be down in Australia soon as the film will released in some theatres and will be showing at a film festival soon. So hopefully the fans will get to see it in the theatre or, if not they can purchase it and download it from all the store links that are available. Thanks so much David.

for-the-love-of-spock-trailer

For The Love of Spock will be screening at The 2016 Sci-Fi Film Festival, which runs from October 19-23 at The Ritz Cinema, Randwick. For more on For The Love of Spock and to buy tickets, head to the official site HERE.

For The Love of Spock is also available for purchase through ITunes and Google Play Store.