It was difficult this past week to hear of the death of Leonard Nimoy. Like so many others, I was a pretty serious fan of Star Trek from its first airings (yeah, I'm old), and Spock always appealed more than the other characters to me.
He had that conflict between his natural tendency to see everything in terms of cold, objective logic and the need to understand his human side, which would react to things more emotionally than the character might want to admit. He was a beautifully conceived character, but he wouldn't have worked half as well if he'd been played by another actor (as we've seen in recent years).
The need to keep raging emotions in check while understanding their importance was what kept the character interesting. And Nimoy, who must have understood him on a basic level, once told director Nicholas Meyer (Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country, among others) that he never played Spock as a character with no emotions.
Instead, he played the alien as a man trying to keep his emotions in check. That makes all the difference.
Yes, some of the plots were downright silly and the special effects on a TV budget and schedule in the 1960s could be laughable. But Spock was never anything but dignified and in the parlance of the time, cool. He could outperform humans on almost every level, but was content to live among them and observe.
Leonard Nimoy brought that to the role. Did he bristle at being thought of as Spock and nothing else? On occasion, he did; it's true. But he did not disparage the role or the people who had embraced it, sometimes to the point of embarrassment.
Hey. I was nine years old and it was Star Trek. Cut me some slack.
Many years later when I was going through my unsuccessful screenwriter phase, I wrote a screenplay that had some connections to Star Trek, although it took place in contemporary America and didn't use any of the original characters because I wasn't stupid. I'd probably shudder to look at that piece of work today, but at the time I thought it was pretty good and I was hoping to get it noticed somewhere in Hollywood.
So I sent a letter to Leonard Nimoy asking if he'd like to consider directing the script.
To my astonishment, I received a letter (this was back when there were letters) from Mr. Nimoy's company saying he'd very much like to read the script. And you can believe that a copy was in the mail that very day.
I don't remember how long it took to receive a response, but I'm sure at the time I thought it was an eternity and I did my best not to pester anyone at Nimoy's company about it (I'm sure Josh can picture me waiting by the phone, only younger). But eventually another letter did arrive.
It's probably not a huge surprise that Nimoy passed on the script, since when you scan my IMDb page, you'll see I don't have one. But he did send a personal note.
He wrote, "I read your script with great interest, and your fondness for the material is evident. Although I am not going to proceed with it, I'd advise you to keep writing." I quoted that from memory.
It was a time when I needed any little bit of encouragement, and getting Mr. Spock to tell me I should keep writing did the trick. It was something he didn't have to do--most other Hollywood types would have sent a form letter or gotten an assistant to write the note--but he clearly saw that the script meant a lot to me, and wanted to connect personally.
I never forgot that, obviously.
Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy. You were a good actor who had one iconic role, which is more than most get. You were a talented director, a good writer and I don't know much about photography, but I'm willing to bet you had some talent there too. You were kind to me at a time I needed it, and even though I tried to explain that the one time we met for about a half a minute, I don't think I sufficiently communicated that thought. Thank you. You will be missed.