2014 March 04
Fred Rosen: Hi, it's Fred Rosen and the name of this show is 'Journeys to Success'. You know we often see people who occupy positions of CEO or are leaders in our society but we often don't know what their journey was to get here. ...
Thanks to Grace for the Link
Fred Rosen: And this show is going to focus on people's journey and how the evolved to be the people they are. (insert by the presenter: Audiobooks.com) ..... Today I am pleased to have with me a true renaissance man, someone most of you know, probably all of you know. His name is Leonard Nimoy. And I've looked and read the opening of Wikipedia, it really sums up the man and his life. Leonard Nimoy is an American actor, film director, poet, singer and photographer, a true renaissance man in the 21st century. So, wellcome, Leonard.
Leonard Nimoy: Hello, Fred.
Fred Rosen: Nice to have you here.
Leonard Nimoy: Thank you.
Fred Rosen: The world knows who you are. And I think it is more intersting to start to find out how you got there. So, as a young man, was it aways your dream to be an actor. PLease, explain your journey. You were raised in Boston.
Leonard Nimoy: I grew up in a tenemant neighborhood, three or four stores attached appartment buildings and we lived in a two - bedroom appartment and there wree six of us: My grandparents, my parents and my brother and I. One bathroom. So we had t learn to get along with each other. We had an occasional uncle who came in and took a flop on the couch when he was broke. And my dad was a barber and the shop was only about a four minute walk from where we lived. So it was a tight little neighborhood and it was mostly immigrant people, Italians and Jews. There were about 65% Italiens and about 20, 25% Jews and the rest was a mix of Irish and occasional Polish and black here and there. And we had to get along, it was a tight community.
And there was a neighborhood sttlement house - what they called a settlement house those days I don't know what they call them now - a boys and girls club, this kind of thing. This was a stand alone building by the Charles river in Boston. It was about three blocks from where I lived. And I went there for the first time with a basketball team. We had a basketball program. And it was during the second world war. So all the teams were named after United States aircraft carriers. So I was on the Seratogus. I was not a very good basketball player, but they let me play in the team, I got the ball in my hands every once in a while. And I got into the habbit of going there because it was a very interesting place. It was a settlement house that was created to help the immigrnats finding their way into the cuture. So they had classes in various kind of every day things like how to get a sanitary kitchen, how to brush your teeth properly, how to open a bank account, what a savings account is all about, stuff that immigrants would need to learn. And some of the classes would be in Italian or Jiddish, whatever people spoke. And they also had a science lab and my brotehr became a scientist because he started haning around in that science lab and became interested in science.
And they had a beautiful little theater. The theater with about 300 seats. It was a traditional theater with foot lights and a beautiful curtain which came down and rose to reveal the stage. A little balcony, maybe 100 people upstairs. And one day I was in this bulding walking around and just haning around, and somebody said: 'Go into that room and sing a song' and I walked into the room and somebody said: 'Would you sing something for us?' and I did. I could carry a tune, I didn't have a great voice, but I could carry a tune, so I sang something and they cast me as Hansel in a production of "Hansel and Gretel". I was eight years old and that's how it all started.
Fred Rosen: Well, and you continued that in high school or did you ...
Leonard Nimoy: I continued to do children's theater at the Peabody playhouse and radio work in high school as my English teacher had a connection with one of the radio stations in Boston and he would march us down to the station where we would do readings from Shakespeare and stuff like that on radio in Boston all through my teen years. And an occasional play here and there, some kind of that stuff and then lightning really struck hard when I was about 17 or 18 years old when I had done some acting with amateur work, all amature work, he said: 'There is a guy casting a play at the Eisabeth Peabody house, go and see him, there's a part that you could do.'
So I went there and the guy happened to be a man named Boris Segal, he later was Katie Segal's father. He was a student at Harward studying law. And he was paying for a room at the Peabody house that made him live there in return for directing some plays. He was broke. I mean to get across the river to go to school at Harward he borowed 20 cents to go ..
Fred Rosen: This is the late 40ies, '47, '48?
Leonard Nimoy: '46, '47. (laughs) So I went to see Boris and he was casting a play called "Awake and Sing!" by Clifford Odets. Odets was a very, very successful playarite in the 30ies and fourties. - I think his biggest success was probably a play called 'Golden Boy' which made it as a movie with William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck. -
This play ['Awake and Sing!'] was a play about a family very much like my own. Three generations living in an appartment. A Jewish family living in the Bronx I think, and there is this teenage kid in this family. The kid is struggling to figure out - just like I was - how are you supposed to find out who you are? What you are supposed to do. Where are you supoosed to go? How do you find the right girl for yourself? How do you get along in th ejob? How do you get promoted, you know? So I identified with it a lot and he was a good director. He was really very strong director with whom we could talk about the theme and the play and what it meant to the audience at the time and the period. And I thought: 'This is great!' This is serious, really interesting. If I could do work like this for the rest of my life I'd be happy. That's why I decided I'd love to do this, to do more of this. You don't get to do that kind of work very often. A lot of it, a lot of what you do is for entertainment purposes, but this was really social, social theater.
Fred Rosen: Social theater.
Leonard Nimoy: Yuh.
Fred Rosen: And it really put the bug in you.
Leonard Nimoy: Oh, yuh!
Fred Rosen: And you like being on stage.
Leonard Nimoy: Yuh, and I was very comfortable on stage, verycomfortable. I never was scared or worried or nervous. I get excited, but I was very comfortable.
Fred Rosen: So now you do this role.
Leonard Nimoy: Yuh.
Fred Rosen: And what happens?
Leonard Nimoy: Well, I announced to my parents that I wanted to be an actor (laughs).
Fred Rosen: So they obviously put their head into the oven and said: 'The end of the world. My son wants to become an actor.'
Leonard Nimoy: 'Forget about it! Just forget about it.' So I said: 'I want to go to acting school.' and they said: 'We'll pay for your collage but not for acting. Anything else, what do you want to do?' They were really wonderful old school imigrant people. They wanted their kids to be professional, people who can make a living. 'How are you going to make your living as an actor?', you know? So I said: 'Okay, I'm on my own.'
And thete's something in that that motivated me is kind of ' I'll show them', you know?, prove to them that it can be done. And that was a lot of motivation for me.
Fred Rosen: Motivation in which way? A lot of people talk about the fact - when they go on these journeys - clearly there is motivation when they feel it and they hear it, but it's a combination of two things: Determination to make it happen and the fear of failing that you must make it happen.
Leonard Nimoy: Well, yeah, that's the pride aspect, isn't it? You want to keep your pride by accomplishing something and not having to put your tail between your legs and go home. And in fact I left Boston not long after that to go to California. And my mother would write to me not terribly supporting kind of letters. She would write things either between the lines or on the line where she would say things like 'Come home!'. And I would write things to her like: 'If you can't encourage me, don't write.'
Fred Rosen: Well thank you to share early stories about how you came to California because its a very cute story.
Leonard Nimoy: (laughs) Well I went to work in Boston selling vacuum cleaners, I put together several hundred dollars, I sent several hundred to the school in Passadena, it was the Passadena playhouse school and theater - long since gone. And I had a hundred diollars for a train ticket and about 50 bugs in my pocket to travel with. And my mother bought me a suit at Filene's basement in Boston - a very famous store in Boston on a sale. It was a blue double-breasted wool suit, and that was my dress-up suit that I would need for special occasions. So I packed that suit and I packed a suitcase and I'd go on a train at South Station in Boston and I head out for California. It was a tough trip. I was on a coach seat for three days and three nights, it was hard. But when we landed ...
Fred Rosen: You didn't land. In a train ...
Leonard Nimoy: When the train arrived
Fred Rosen: Definitely you're not landing on a train.
Leonard Nimoy: (laughs) I wanted to see the country. And the train would be the way to do it.
Fred Rosen: Exactly.
Leonard Nimoy: So I went by train and I got off the train in Passadena and I put on my best suit because when I went to show off at school I wanted to look my best. I put on this blue double-breasted wool suit and wearing a hand-painted very colorful tie, I'm wearing blue swade shows with leather tips and leather at the back of the heal, you know?
Fred Rosen: uhm
Leonard Nimoy: And that's how I came walking into this city of Passadena carrying my suitcase.
Fred Rosen: And the weather outside was about 95 degrees?
Leonard Nimoy: About 85 degrees. (both laughing) The seat was pouring down my face and I'm walking with my suitcase dressed like that in Passadena, California. Unbelievable! I had no idea that I looked like something just around from Ukrania or something. (both laughing)
Fred Rosen: Well obviously you got over that. ... So, Leonard, you survived in ypur wool suit in Passadena. What happened next?
Leonard Nimoy: Well, I went into the school and registered and said: 'Where is a place where I can stay?' So they said: 'There's rooming houses down the block, but they are all full. Try the Y. So I walked down a couple of blocks and I checked in and got a room for 6 bucks a week. And it was grim. It was like a little cell with a metal cabinet to put some clothes in. I stayed theer for about a month until something became available closer to the school in a boarding house together with some other students and I went to school. I was excited I went to school. Unfortunately the school was on a downhill run. I didn't know it until I got there. And I was there for about 6 months and the best thing that happened to me at the school was that there was a great speech teacher. Because when I arrived in Los Angeles if I opened my mouth you knew I was from Boston. Immediately. I wanted to get rid of that because I didn't want to be seen as an actor who can only play characters from Boston.
Fred Rosen: Sure.
Leonard Nimoy: So I studied. I worked really hard with that speech program with a teacher which was very helpful. I cleaned up my speech and then I quit. I quit the school six months after I signed up.
Fred Rosen: There is a period time during the scholl you were doing some acting jobs...
Leonard Nimoy: yeah.
Fred Rosen: ... wherever you can get them. You were going in the service for a while, right?
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah.
Fred Rosen: And then you came out of the service, came back to California.
Leonard Nimoy: Right.
Fred Rosen: Then what happened?
Leonard Nimoy: While I was in the service I got married. While I was in the service we had our first child. Julie was born in the post hospital in Fort McFurson, Georgia, where I was stationed doing army talent shows we were expecting our second child by the time we got out. I had to get to work immediately to have some income. I had a tiny thread of an acting career, I had done a few jobs in film and television before I left, but that wasn't much of a career to come back to. There was an agent who would take me on, that was helpful. I had to produce some income right away. So I went driving a taxi. And the reason I did that, two reasons: One was the income immediately. You got to work and got the income immediately, in two or three days and start earning a living, earning some money. And I could work nights, which was important. Then I would be free during the day going to auditions and interviews for potential acting jobs. That was the game. Also - very important - if I didn't show up for work one night, there was still pleanty of cabs in the street. It wasn't like I really had a responsible job. I wasn't responsible to anybody. Because if I had an acting job I could go away.
Fred Rosen: Sure.
Leonard Nimoy: And that's the way I had to live the next several years.
Fred Rosen: But that reinforces something I think the listener should know, especially the young people: You don't have to give up your dream, you just have to survive. So, you figure out what you need to do
Leonard Nimoy: Right.
Fred Rosen: I mean I waited on tables. You do what you got to do in a period to give you enough income so that ultimately you can follow your dreams.
Leonard Nimoy: Exactly, exactly. There is a goal you are after, there are things on the way that you do to keep you going, the goal remains, the goal survives and persistance is going to get you there.
Fred Rosen: When you were sitting in that cab delivering people, were you thinking ' I'm an actor.'
Leonard Nimoy: 'I'm an actor'
Fred Rosen: ' I am doing this because I'm gonna do something.'
Leonard Nimoy: That's right.
Fred Rosen: Okay. So now, what happens during that period until the breakthrough, the first role you get, meaning ...
Leonard Nimoy: Well, in 1958, about three years I got out of the army, I started studying with an acting teacher. It took a blow to my pride to go back to acting school because I've been acting since I was eight. But I could see that there were things happening in the acting world that I didn't understand. I saw actors like Marlon Brando and other people doing work I didn't kow how they got to that, how they accomplished that work. This was a whole new movement how acting was percieved and how it was performed. And I thought I'd got to learn about this. So I heard about this teacher, Jeff Correy, he was the key how to arrive to be serious acting student in Hollywood. I studied with him for two years, my acting changed immediately because I had the craft. I knew how to stand on a stage or in front of a camera and deliver a line. What I didn't have was the interior life he could teach you about. How to get into the interior life of a character. And I got that pretty quickly and it was exciting, very exciting. And then, after a couple of years studying with him, I was in a class with Vic Morrow who was a pretty well established actor.
Fred Rosen: He was in a TV show called 'Combat'.
Leonard Nimoy: 'Combat' that's right.
Fred Rosen: He was one of the people unfortunatly killed in 'The Twilight Zone'.
Leonard Nimoy: That's right. So, Vic Morrow was directing a play caled 'Deathwatch' by Jean Genet, a French playwrite. Jean Genet was a playwrite that has been heard about in California but never been produced. So this was the first time. There was a lot of industry interest in this guy directed by Vic with a couple of very good actors. Paul Mazursky who later became a wonderful director. Michael Forest. And the industry people came to see the play and we were very well revied, and I started working as a steady actor after that.
Fred Rosen: Mostly television?
Leonard Nimoy: Mostly television. Occasionally a film job.
Fred Rosen: Did you do the bad guys in some films?
Leonard Nimoy: I did a lot of bad guys. I did, I did.
Fred Rosen: And how does that automatically lead to something of that all our listeners know which is 'Star Trek'. There was initially a pilot that was not ...
Leonard Nimoy: The first pilot started filming 50 years ago this year, November 1964.
50 years ago this year a pilot was filmed which started on November 27th.
Fred Rosen: My birthday.
Leonard Nimoy: Really? Happy birthday! You and 'Star Trek' were born on the same day!
Fred Rosen: Exactly. I don't get their residuals.
Leonard laughs. : We made this pilot with Jeffrey Hunter as the pilot of this ship. And it was a very interesting pilot, a very complex story. The network said it's too cerebral, we can't sell it.
A few months later they called me and said: 'We're going to try again to do a second pilot.' Jeffrey Hunter was not available, so they could not make a deal with him. So they hired William Shatner to replace him. I was kept over. I was the only actor who was kept over in role from the first pilot to the second. And we started with the second pilot a year later and that sold and we went in the air. That was the way it started.
Fred Rosen: Now when you think about that show, when you were doing that show, do you think it had the longlivity it had, it would create this whole world of 'Star Trek'?
Leonard Nimoy: No, nobody could predict that. But I did think so. I odn't remember there was a specific time I was thinking that: There is a show which could not be dated very quickly because all the stories were dated in the 23rd century. And I thought: This show could last a while because these episodes could last a while, they won't become quickly dated. I remember that, thinking: We do a show about the future and the future is yet to come. I thought that and I had no idea that it would have the life it had. No.
Fred Rosen: Please, explain to people: There is a couple of things I thought of which lasts long. There is 'Live long and prosper!' When I think where it came from. How you came up with the physicality when you put someone to sleep by putting your hand behind their neck, please, explain how both these things came up.
Leonard Nimoy: I was looking for ways to find he magic of this character, this role. This character is not a human, he's a half - human, but he really coems from a different culture. From a different place, from a different kind of people, from a different race of people. I talked a little bit about the fact that I was influenced a little bit by Tonto in 'The Lone Ranger' stories. I used to listen to the radio as a kid and we got out into the streets and play Lone Ranger stories. I wante dto be Tonto, I didn't want to be the Lone Ranger because Toonto was magical. Tonto could do things and could figure out things that the Lone Ranger couldn't. He was usful. He could put his ear on the railroad track and he could tell you here's the train coming and when would it get here. He could look at the footprints on the ground and he could tell you how many people passed this way and maybe even how heavy they were by the look at the footprints, you know? (laughs) He was a special guy. So with Spock I wanted him to have these special traits, things that humans don't do or don't understand or can't do. He's got to be different, he's the alien. He's got to be different. And that's why I was looking always for ways to introduce touches that would separate him from the rest of the people.
Fred Rosen: Explain to them where they came from and explain how you explained to me how they wanted you to put somebody to sleep with hitting them ...
Leonard Nimoy: I was supposed to hit a guy on the head with the bud of a gun in a scene. I didn't want ot do that. To begin with I don't want to do fights at all. I didn't want to do punching people or hitting people or kicking people. I figured: Let the hero do that, I don't do that. I have to find other ways of doing these things.
So there was this scene where I was supposed to hit a guy over the head with the bottom of a gun. So I said: I'd rather find some other things to do. So the director said: What do you want to do? And I said: Okay, here's the deal: Spock went to the Vulcan Institute of Technology, that was his training you know? And he took courses in human anatomy. And he found out that there are certain pressure points in the human neck and shoulder that - if you get those pressure points just right - and - since Vulcans have a certain kind of energy that comes off their fingertips - if a Vulcan applies that energy to the certain points of the human, he's gonna drop like a rock. And tha's what we did. That's how I introduced ...
Fred Rosen: You invented that?
Leonard Nimoy: Yuh.
Fred Rosen: And that .... of the character also, how he would do thing.
Leonard Nimoy: Exactly. It was a cool thing to do, you know? I just didn't want to fight. I didn't want to be kicking and punching people. So I invented the neck pinch.
Fred Rosen: Please explain how you invented 'live long and prosper!'
Leonard Nimoy: Okay. The hand gesture for 'live long and prosper' was in an episode - beautiful script by Theodore Sturgeon a great science fiction writer - called 'Amok Time'. And we learn that Spock had to go home to his home planet of Vulcan because he's in heat. Vulcans come into heat once every seven years. And he has to go home to fulfill a marriage betrothal. He was betrothed as a child to this young lady on the Vulcan planet.
Now this you got to understand, this was especially exciting for me because this was the first time we ever gonna see another Vulcan. We are going to see Spock's planet, We are going to see other Vulcans, we'll learn about the Vulcan people. So when we land on the planet, here comes a procession to meet us and there are some guys carrying a lady in a sedan chair, she's very .... - sitting in this sedan chair, her name T'Pau, played by a wonderful actress named Celia Lovsky. She's gone to officiate at Spock's wedding. She's a very important person. So they sat her down and I'm supposed to approach her and I was supposed to say: 'Hello, how are you?' And she's supposed to say: 'Hello, Welcome home.' or something like that. And I said to the director: We should do something special that Vulcans do when they greet each other. Humans shake hands and we bow to each other and we bow to each other and we do these various things humans do.
'So what do you want to do?' So I put up my hand with the slpit fingers and said: How about this?
He had no idea what it was, but he said: 'Okay, do that.' So I did that. She couldn't do it. We had her to hold hre hand off the camera frame, hold her hand in shape to get it ready and when I raised my hand, she was ready and raised hers. And that's how we got it into the show.
It came from an experience I had when I was a little kid. I must have been eight or nine years old in the synagogue during high holiday services. And several of these gentlemen were getting up in front of the congregation and my dad said to me: 'Don't look!' And I'm sitting with my grandfather, my father and my brother and I and the women were upstairs in the balcony - an orthodox Jewish service. So I looked around, sure enough everybody got their eyes covered with their hands and the got their talids, their prayer shawls covering their heads, so I ducked for a while. And when I was hearing this chanting the guys were doing, their whaling on the stage, and I snucked a peek to see what's going on and I see them with their both hands struck out like that ..
Fred Rosen: With these gestures?
Leonard Nimoy: Yes, these gestures, both hands towards the congregation, And they were shouting in Hebrew, I didn't know what all this was about. It was magical, theater, great theater (!) was going on. And I started to do with. 'How do they do that with their hands?' And I worked on that until I could do it with either hand any place. I had no idea that I would ever use that. But that's how I learned to do it.
Fred Rosen: Did you find out what teh meaning was?
Leonard Nimoy: Yes. The shape of the hand is a letter in the Hebrew alphabeth, the letter "shin". It's a very interesting letter. It's the first letter in the word 'shaddai' which is a name for god. It is th efirst letter in the word 'shalom' which means 'peace'. It is the first letter in the word 'shekhina' which is very important. 'shekhina' is the name of the feminine aspect of god. And I found out about that much later from John Rosove, a rabbi, my wife's cousin. And the reason why you are not supposed to look is because during that benediction the belief is that she, the shekhina, the feminine goddess, comes into the sanctuary to bless the congregation - you don't dare see her because the light could hurt you very bad - th elight frpm that god could hurt you. So you protect yourself covering your eyes.
Fred Rosen: So it's interesting that the symbolism that the character took on comes from inside you.
Leonard Nimoy: Yu.
Fred Rosen: And comes from your background from your spiritualty which most people don't know.
Leonard Nimoy: Yes. That's where it came from, exactly.
Fred Rosen: Interesting.
Fred Rosen: I want to stay on 'Star Trek' for another few moments. So, the show does two seasons.
Leonard Nimoy: Three. Three seasons.
Fred Rosen: I know it does three, but it does two and the network talks about cancelling the show and then there is this fan-uprising. and they agreed to do the third season.
Leonard Nimoy: Right.
Fred Rosen: What was it like being in the middle of all that and watching this as a participent and as one of the main principles in this big .., people don't do this in those days.
Leonard Nimoy: Yes, it was very unusual. I didn't think it's gonna worl. I thought these fans are potentient, they were very serious about 'Star Trek', but there weren't enough of them - that was what I thought. And the rating were not very good. It was just as simple as that. If the rating would have been good, it wouldn't have been a problem. But the ratings were not very good, it was medium at best. We were getting very good press but medial ratings.
And here come all these fans doing demonstartions outside NBC, writing letters to NBC, and then suddenly it started to turn. Suddenly NBC said: Well, okay, we don't want all this negativity out there, people are angry about us. We'll do a third season.
But they put us onto a very bad time slot. Friday night, date night. Like at ten o'clock or something. And it was in for desaster. Ratings dropped still further, the series was not as good in the third season as it was in the first two. And finally I was glad to see it finished because we were limping out of here. We were not going out in a blaze of glory, we were limping out. Let's be done with this. It was not fun. And finally then in the third season it was over. And I thought: That's it! It's done.
Fred Rosen: You have to remember, - I just want to say to our audience - : the internet did not exist, there weren't fourhundred chanels,
Leonard Nimoy: Right.
Fred Rosen: In most places in America in the sixties you had 5 channels, you had ABC, CBS and NBC
Leonard Nimoy: and a couple of locals.
Fred Rosen: And a couple of local independent stations. And an audience had to be 15 to 20 million people to stay on the air. If not that you could not saty.
Leonard Nimoy: Right.
Fred Rosen: The whole way of watching television in those days was different. Color TV was introduced in the mid-sisties. 1963 / '64. But in any event - Star Trek gets cancelled what happens then?
Leonard Nimoy: Well it was over the end of the third season. I thought: That's the end of it. I was immediately hired to work in 'Mission: Impossible'. I did this for 2 years and it is the best kept secret in the world. (laughs) I was two years in 'Mission: Impossible' and nobody ever asks me about it. 'Didn't you do 'Mission: Impossible' ? How was it ... ?
Because I was doing all these strange characters with dialects and make-ups. Many times you didn't even see me in the show, you saw this character that I was doing. And in the end of two years I was bored with it, frankly. And I said: 'I have to get out of here.'
I had a five year contract.
Fred Rosen: Bruce Geller was producing it, wasn't he?
Leonard Nimoy: Yes.
Fred Rosen: And that was with Martin Landau and Barbara Bain
Leonard Nimoy: Barbara Bain left the show. And I got the call to replace
Fred Rosen: I watched it.
Leonard Nimoy: So I did it for two years and it was very different from Star Trek. I was a very vuisual show which I appreciate and I enjoyed that, but it was enough. By the time I was done with it after two years Star Trek make itself felt on syndication. Stations around the country could buy it and air it whenever they felt there was an audience for it. So they weren't dependent on the network telling them when to play the show, when they had to play the show.
Now I started hearing from station who were running it at 6 o'clock every night: Star Trek. Two o'clock every afternoon: Star Trek. Marathin weekends of Star Trek. 24 hours of Star Trek around the cock. Saturday and Sunday. It became a news story. The press picked it up as a news story: 'Look what's happening with this show!'
And I thought: Well, maybe this will play itself out very quickly. And it just refused to go away. It just kept going on and on.
And then in 1977 when George Lucas produced Star Wars and it was such a big hit, suddenly Paramount decided: We have a property like that, let's put it back to work. and they started making plans to make the first motion picture.
Fred Rosen: Which ones did you wind up directing?
Leonard Nimoy: I directed number III and number IV. And I produced number VI.
Fred Rosen: You never thought it would have that kind of legs?
Leonard Nimoy: No. No, no, no, no. As a matter of fact we did the first Star Trek movie which was not a terribly good Star Trek movie
Fred Rosen: Right, it was kind of lame.
Leonard Nimoy: Nethertheless, we have done 'this Star Trek movie'. There was not planned to do any sequels.
And then I was contacted to do a second one. It was terribly expensive, much more costly than it should have been.
The second one was done by a television appartment and they were told to do it cheap. And I thought: 'Oh, don't squeeze it more to get a bug out of this thing.' And Harve Bennett - a very good producer- came to me and said: 'We're gonna make another Star Trek movie, how would you like to have a great death scene?
So I said: Okay. I thought it was the end of it anyway, I might as well go out as a hero saving the ship. So I said: Okay, let's take a look at that. He got Nicolas Meyer to do a great re-write on the script and to direct it. He had a great sense of fun making the movie. And by the time we were down to my death scene I thought I think I have made a big mistake because this is gonan work (laughs) and then I'm dying. This is not a good thing happening here. But it worked and we went on to make more movies.
Fred Rosen: It's interesting to me that JJ found ways to put you into modern movies.
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah.
Fred Rosen: The movies of the last ten years. So your career goes from the sixties, it's almost fifty years. Beoing principal in the early movies and JJ bringing you back what I really consider as iconic pieces in the new.
Leonard Nimoy: Right. This year in November it will be fifty years since I first put on the Star Trek make-up.
Fred Rosen: So let my ask a question, we don't have a terrible lot of time. I mean there's going to be another session with Leonard, there is so much to talk about this man's career. How did you go from acting to directing? We mentioned that you did two of the Star Trek, but you did 'Three Men and a Baby', you did a lot of other movies. How did you do this transition and why did you do that?
Leonard Nimoy: Yu, I used to teach acting in the early sisties. And people used to say to me: You should be directing.
And to tell the truth I was insulted. I thought: Is there something wrong with my acting? Why are they telling me this? Why are they saying this to me? I'm an actor! I want to be an actor. I did not think in terms of myself as a director. But after Star Trek II was done and it was so successful, I thought: I could do this, I could do this. And I was looking for a way to broaden my career, to broaden my life, so ot wasn't just Spock, Star Trek. And I wanted to find a way to platform myself into other kinds of work and that's the way I got the idea I might ask if I could direct one of the Star Trek movies. When they called me to come into teh studio, to come in for a meeting after Star Trek II opened and was so successful, the first thing what the producer, the studio's secretary asked me was: We'd like to know if you'd like to be involved in the next Star Trek movie. Meaning: Will you act, will you be Spock? And I said: Yes, I am interested and I would like to direct that movie.
On the spot, minutes before that meeting I said: I'm gonna ask for this.
He said: Okay. Let's consider that. Within a few days I was in a meeting with Michael Eisener, a couple of weeks I was on another meeting with Michael Eisener and we discussed it. To make a long story short, there is a long story in there how it all came about, I was hired to direct Star Trek III and to act in it.
I was excited. I already directed some television. And I knew Star Trek very well, I really did. I thought I was very confident. I was not nervous, I was excited. I thought this is gonna be interesting.
Fred Rosen: How did they bring you back? You died in Star Trek II. (laughs)
Leonard Nimoy: In the end of Star Trek II
Fred Rosen: Did they do a resurrection?
Leonard Nimoy: This was Harve Bennett, god bless him, we were in the set to shoot the death scene where Spock is gonna go into this chamber, he's gonna die while he is saving the ship. And just before I was going to go in there Harve became came down and said to me: What can we do to give us a thread for Spock in the future?
I thought: Oh, good thinking! (laughs)
Dr. McCoy is onconscious, he's on the floor I've knocked him down with the Vulcan pinch, he's on the floor, unconscious, so I reach out to do a mind meld on his face, I put my fingers on his face and I simply said one word, I said: 'Remember'
And that's what gave us the trigger to go into the next Star Trek movie.
Fred Rosen: Very clever.
Leonard Nimoy: Spock says 'remember' and its all in McCoy's brain.
Fred Rosen: So you do the Star Trek movies and that leads to 'Three Men and a Baby' at some point.
Leonard Nimoy: Michael Eisener and Jeff Katzenberg were at Paramount when I was directing Star Trek movies and while I was directing Star Trek IV they went to Disney to run that studio. And when I was finished with Star Trek IV they were looking for someone to direct 'Three Men and a Baby', and they had seen the work that I had done in the Star Trek movies, and my agent said they called for 'Three Men and a Baby' and they hired me.
Fred Rosen: And was that fun? I mean nobody saw you in those days doing comedy.
Leonard Nimoy: It was great, it was great. We had a wonderful time, we had wonderful actors, Steve Gutenberg, Ted Danson, Tom Sellek, wonderful actors. A magical baby that we cast. And the story was charming. We had a good time, we really enjoyed making that movie.
Fred Rosen: It was a big hit.
Leonard Nimoy: That's true. Terrific.
Fred Rosen: When JJ reached out to you to do the new Star Trek. What was your response, what was your reaction?
Leonard Nimoy: I was very touched because they called me to come to a meeting with him and his writers. I was very touched because they talked very eloquently about Star Trek and Spock. And what Spock meant to them and as an audience and as film makers and as fans of Star Trek what Spock meant to them. And I thought: They reall yget it! They really get it. They understand what the Spock character can be and I think I'd like to do it with these people. And that's how it started.
Fred Rosen: And you had roles in both of the movies.
Leonard Nimoy: In two of the movies, yu.
Fred Rosen: So now we've done: You're a director, you continued to act. But other things start to happen in your life. The photography.
Leonard Nimoy: Well, the phootgraphy goes way back. I started doing photography when I was about 13 or 14 years old. A friend from teh enighborhood showed me how to develop a film. I used the famliy bathroom. I was developing film and making prints when I was about 13 years old. And I never stopped. I was always interested in photography.
And in 1971 after I left 'Mission: Impossible' the first thing to do was to enrol in photography courses at UCLA, studying photography seriously.
Fred Rosen: Really?
Leonard Nimoy: Really. I thought I was going to have a career as a photographer. I had done enough acting three seasons of Star Trek, three seasons of Mission: Impossible, done some movies and what have you and I said: I want to see about this photography thing.
Fred Rosen: In a world of multi-tasking when you were acting and directing, and I know it fullfills and takes a lot of time, do you have time to pursue phootgraphy? Ypu keep photographies from your acting of the time?
Leonard Nimoy: No I didn't do that. I didn't carry cameras around to do that. In the early seventies I carried cameras when I was acting on locations, I have some photographs, an extensive collection of photographs I shot in Spain when I was there making a movie with Yul Brynner, acting in a movie with Yul Brynner.
Fred Rosen: Who is that movie?
Leonard Nimoy: It was called 'Catlow'.
Fred Rosen: Right.
Leonard Nimoy: It was a Western, I had a great time. A couple of months in Spain with Brynner. And I was the heavy. I was good on a horse, people didn't know that, I was good on a horse.
Fred Rosen: That's a new fact.
Leonard Nimoy: I did a lot of Westerns.
Fred Rosen: Did you?
Leonard Nimoy: A lot of Westerns, oh yeah! In my early career I played a lot of Indians and I had to be good on a horse and I was. I was very comfortable on horses.
Fred Rosen: How did you learn riding a horse considering you were raised in Boston?
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah, I didn't know anything about horses until I got to Hollywood. And there I left school and lived in Hollywood in a rooming house and a couple of actors said to me: If you're gonna work in tele, you're gonna work in Westerns, you'd better learn to ride. They took me out to Burbank to one of the riding stables down there where you could rent a horse for three bugs for an hour and I got on a horse and started learning how to do that. And I was very comfortable right from the start.
Fred Rosen: Well, that's an interesting tag line - from a horse to a space ship. From a horse to the Enterprise, you know?
Leonard Nimoy: You know that science fiction movies, science fictions television replace the Westerns? The bad guys used to be the Indians, now the bad guys were the Klingons.
Fred Rosen: There is no Klingon lobby!
Leonard Nimoy: That's right!!
Fred Rosen: There is no Klingon league.
Leonard Nimoy: You got it!
Fred Rosen: So it makes it work much better.
Leonard Nimoy: That's right.
Fred Rosen: Leonard, it feels as if we were talking for about 5 minutes and I'd love to invite you back and continue this conversation.
Leonard Nimoy: The conversation is terrific, the coffee is okay, we'll do it again.
Fred Rosen: Thank you, Leonard!
This is Fred Rosen, thank you fpr listening to "Journeys to Success"