1978 April 23
By Cecil Smith for The Sunday Star-Ledger
“I am always looking for material that will affect my life,” Leonard Nimoy said thoughtfully.
“In the work I do, I want to deal with things that will affect me as a person, either teach me something or change my mind in some way or my attitude. That’s the most interesting part of this work.
“If I do a job — which I have many times — that has no effect on me except the check at the end, I’m bored. So If I have a choice — and, fortunately, these days, I do — I try to find something that will affect my life.”
He was talking, for instance, of his long research into the lives of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, which have resulted in a one-man play Nimoy has written and wilt star in, “Vincent.” Doing the psychiatrist in “Equus” on Broadway last year is another example of probing new experience.
And the syndicated series he does weekly on stations in more than 100 cities across the country, “In Search of…” is a “dream job that could have been created for me.” Now in production for its third season, “In Search of…“explores everything from psychic phenomena to archaeology, the invasion of killer ants and the long search for Grand Duchess Anastasia.
Was playing Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” a thing that affected Nimoy’s life? “Oh, big,” he said, “Spock had a big, big effect on me. I am so much more Spock-like today than when I first played the part in 1965 that you wouldn’t recognize me. I’m not talking about appearance, but thought processes. Doing that character, I learned so much about rational, logical thought that it reshaped my life. I learned so much about the dangers of emotionalism, the pitfalls of being guided by emotions. For an actor, that’s an important discovery. Emotions are his tools, what he works with. So Spock not only affected me as a person but had enormous effect on my work…”
Nimoy is going to be playing Mr. Spock again, pointed ears and all, in a new $15 million movie wrought from Gene Roddenberry’s legendary TV series, which was canceled 10 years ago but literally refuses to die. When Paramount announced the movie, which Robert Wise will direct, the studio gathered together Roddenberry and the crew of the spaceship Enterprise — William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk, DeForrest Kelley, George Takei, Majel Barrett, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan; Walter Koenig, and, of course, Nimoy as Spock, son of a Vulcan father and terrestrial mother and devoid of human feelings, guided solely by logic.
“We had seen one another occasionally over the years,” Nimoy said, “but this was the first time in a decade that all of us were together again, and it was really an experience, very exciting. I was pleased with the way it felt — the chemistry that developed during the series with this group of actors was still there.
“I had reservations about making a new ‘Star Trek.’ There are dangers. The expectations will be so intense. So much has been written about it and lectured about it, so many other frames of reference have developed that it has become almost a mythology.
“But when I walked into the room with those actors, I knew it could be done — Rob Wise could do it. Not because of the millions in hardware and special effects, but because of the relationships of the characters, the rapport of the actors ...“
The rebirth of ‘Star Trek” has gone through a number of forms. First, Paramount scheduled it as a movie, then as a TV series to launch a new independent “fourth network.” then as a TV movie to lead off the series. Nimoy, involved first in ‘Equus’ on Broadway, then in the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with Donald Sutherland, was lost in these maneuvers; for a time, it looked as though this would be a “Star Trek” without a Spock. But schedules were worked out and Nimoy will be on hand when the Enterprise is launched again in July.
Meanwhile, the actor plans to launch his ‘Vincent,” which is a multimedia experience with a tryout in Sacramento next month, followed by a short tour. This play in which he says he’s doing “the whole Orson Welles bit, producing, writing, directing, acting,” is something that can be put aside until the film is completed, then brought forth for a new tour, perhaps a Broadway run.
Like “In Search of ...“ it’s a dream job. The series was an outgrowth of Man Landsburg’s production of the documentary feature “In Search of Ancient Astronauts,” which since has gone in search of everything from Amelia Earhart and the mystery of Stonehenge to the real city of Troy, the Lost Dutchman Mine and Butch Cassidy. Subjects range from teaching languages through hypnosis to the location of the Garden of Eden and the mysteries of the great pyramid of Cheops.
Though Nimoy is involved in every aspect of the show, the dream part of the job is that he can do it wherever he is and whatever he’s doing.
‘To begin with, Landsburg and I and various producers throw a lot of ideas into a hat, subjects we think might be of interest,” he said. “The research firm hired by Landsburg’s people test these various subjects with the public to see which interests them most. The 24 we come up with are assigned to various producers — sometimes three or four working at once. With the script, I have more input in case there is some special interest I have or if I have had some personal involvement.
‘When the film crews come back from various parts of the world, the film is assembled, the script written and we record it wherever I am.”