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Saturday, 28 February 2015

All Ears About Leonard Nimoy

The world was touched by yesterday’s news of the death of my old friend and one-time pupil Leonard Nimoy. As Spock his  air of noble detachment, his calm acceptance of adversity, and the vast power of his intellect, combined to make a character all could admire.
I first met the young Lenny in 1964. Having successfully read for the part of Spock, he had suffered a complete loss of self-confidence just as shooting was to begin, a reaction all too common among actors landing exceptional roles. In Lenny’s case it was his dependency, as a method actor, on the availability of a role model which caused his self doubt. After all, where in the world was the person with the extraordinary combination of qualities he was expected to portray? Where was the calm kind and wise paragon of detached high intellect upon whom he could model the lofty character of Spock?

It was Gene Rodenberry, the producer of Star Trek, who found the obvious answer, and sent Leonard to me. I must say that my role as Nimoy’s mentor was a largely passive one. Leonard was a skilled, capable and resourceful actor, and was quick to assimilate my mien and mannerisms. Coincidentally I was advising both LBJ and Breshnev about their respective space programmes when Leonard was with me, and I think he was fired a little by my enthusiasm for space exploration.

The attributes that the character of Spock inherited from Leonard’s time with me were not just behavioural. Few know that I have inherited from my mother’s side a rare characteristic – slightly pointed ears. The words elfin or pixie-like will suggest the effect. It was Leonard’s idea to copy and exaggerate my appealing otic peculiarities, and the rest you know. I sometimes wonder whether he had been subconsciously prompted in his actions by the last role he had played before auditioning for Spock, that of Mark Antony. It would have been a natural reaction in a person who had night after night uttered the beseeching words ‘lend me your ears’.

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