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Possibly more than anything else, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy has given Trek fans a sense of security for this new Star Trek film from JJ Abrams. In his second interview with TrekMovie.com, the once and future Spock talked about what it was like to return to the role he made famous, and also provided his thoughts on the new film (including some interesting new tidbits).
TrekMovie July 2008 Interview with Leonard Nimoy Part 1 – The Return of Spock
TrekMovie.com: You have witnessed multiple declarations of death of the Star Trek franchise, yet it continues to defy the critics. Why do you think it remains relevant today.
Leonard Nimoy: We are going to find out how relevant it is aren’t we? [laughs] I have high hopes that this picture will inspire a whole new generation of viewers and reinvigorate the old fans. I think the relevance always has to do with interesting characters and good stories and a positive view of mankind and hope for the future. We just saw this movie Wall-E, which is a wonderful movie and deals with excessive consumerism and neglect of the planet leading to a pretty dreadful kind of result. But even in that movie there is this one ray of hope, there is this sprig of a plant is found which informs people something can be done. I think Star Trek has always had that message, that something can be done. It has always been a vehicle where we solve problems. I think the audiences enjoy that, I think that has always been relevant. The idea that a group of people, very dedicated, very professional, and a close-knit family, set out to solve problems. I think that will always be relevant.
TrekMovie.com: You mentioned Wall-E, which has a very overt environmentalist message. Last year your film Star Trek IV was put on a top environmental films list by an environmental group, because it has a very overt environmental message. Do you feel that this new Star Trek film has any specific overt message?
Leonard Nimoy: I think it is an entirely different movie. It is more of an adventure story than a social comment movie. I would say if there is one major driving emotional force to it, it has to do with the concept of revenge and the damage that the desire for revenge can cause. And I have always been interested in that as a concern. I think that we have seen in our time, various political factions, various political leaders, various political peoples want to get revenge for what they feel has been an unjust attack and the cycle goes around and around and it doesn’t stop. Somebody has to say "lets quit this, we are just destroying each other." So I think, if anything, I come way from this movie with that concept.
TrekMovie.com: At last years Creation Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, you said to Bill [Shatner], and I will quote you "I have to examine where [Spock] is now, what are his thought processes? Is he more logical? Is he less logical? Is he more precise? Is he calm? Is he mellow? Has he got cranky?" So were you nervous, and was that justified? And did you answer those questions of where Spock is?
Leonard Nimoy: I was concerned stepping into a character that I have been out of for eighteen years. I was concerned as an experience, what I might find as a handle. What I might find as an entry point into the character. I really believe those concerns went away when I got on the set and started working with JJ Abrams and my fellow actors. That has always been the touch point — how is it working with the director and my fellow actors, and the script of course. If we are given opportunities and set up in such a way — the set, the directors, the cameras and so forth — that the actors and establish and successfully their relationships with each other, find their dramatic and comic moments in the scene, then everything falls away and I think that was certainly the case with this movie. I had a wonderful time and I felt totally secure in the hands of the director and the script and I worked with some terrific actors. These are very very good people. I really came way extremely pleased. I think the audience is going to find these actors really quite wonderful and they are going to be extremely well liked. I think the audience is going to take them into their hearts.
TrekMovie.com: You have now worked with four directors, in addition to yourself, on Star Trek features — [Robert] Wise, [Nicholas] Meyer, [William] Shatner and JJ [Abrams]. How do you feel that JJ’s approach differs from the previous directors, and what way does that affect your performance as Spock?
Leonard Nimoy: I think the previous directors all brought something that was valuable to the project, but none of them had the size or the scope of production to deal with that this picture offered…
TrekMovie.com: …including Robert Wise? [Star Trek: The Motion Picture]
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah, even Robert Wise. That movie, by comparison, was a less complicated film to shoot. It was sizable, there were large images, but it was not as complex in its imagery and in its story, as this one is. And I think that is a major difference. By the way, that Robert Wise picture had very little opportunity for any kind of meaningful interaction between the characters. The script was designed in such a way that it wasn’t about the characters, but about the concept and the ship. That being the case, I don’t think we had much of an opportunity as actors to bring to the screen the characters the audience found so enjoyable in the TV series. In this movie it is quite the opposite. All the character relationships are in place. The humor, which was terribly lacking in that first movie, is constantly present — a sense of fun, of adventure. And the scope and level of the production values is gigantic by comparison. …You got to believe me that I have been involved in film and television for fifty-seven years, and I have never ever involved in a production of this scale and scope. I don’t know if Star Trek IV still holds the box office record for the largest box office of these movies, but this film is going to obviously run away with that record.
TrekMovie.com: In his book "Star Trek Movie Memories," Bill Shatner talked about going from Star Trek VI to Star Trek Generations.In Generations everyone was new and everything looked different, he felt like a guest star than in his own movie. In this new movie, things look different, everyone is new, did you have a similar feeling or did you feel at home?
Leonard Nimoy: No, because I felt very much at home. Bill was dealing a set of characters and actors that were totally foreign to him. I had a quite a different experience in this movie. I was acting opposite characters, although they were being played by new actors, I was acting in scenes with characters that I recognized. I felt very much at home.
TrekMovie.com: You helped guide Kirstie Alley (Star Trek II) and Robin Curtis (Star Trek III) in their performances as Vulcans. How was it different mentoring Zachary [Quinto] when he was not just playing a Vulcan, but playing yourself, or your former and current character.
Leonard Nimoy: Well I did not direct Kirstie Alley, she was directed by Nicholas Meyer, but I did direct Robin Curtis, but the mold for that character was already set. We were breaking new ground with the pon farr scene and some other elements, but those were elements I was quite familiar with. All I can tell you is that Zachary Quinto watched enough of my work as Spock, and we spent enough time talking about the essential ingredients of the Spock character, that he was able to fly with it. I think he is going to come off wonderfully. He also happens to be an extremely intelligent and gifted actor and you can go a long way on those qualities.
TrekMovie.com: Some have noted, that with your report together, it seems as if you have adopted him as a son.
Leonard Nimoy: [laughs] That’s OK. I like that.
TrekMovie.com: You are headed to Vegas again. What are your thoughts about this year vs. last year and do fans have to look forward to
Leonard Nimoy: Last year was before we made the movie and this year is after we made the movie, so there is obviously we are in a different position. I am looking forward to meeting this audience and having an animated conversation about Star Trek and the new movie. I would certainly encourage everyone to come to this convention in Las Vegas. I think there are going to be some very interesting elements and audience pleasing.
See Leonard Live!
See Mr. Nimoy live at Creation’s upcoming Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas. The two Spocks, Nimoy and Quinto, will appear on Sunday August 10th. More info at Creationent.com.
MORE Nimoy to come
Check back later this week for Part 2 of our interview, where we talk with Mr. Nimoy about Eddie Murphy, photography, Bill Shatner and more. And if you can’t wait, read our last in depth interview with Nimoy, from Summer 2007 (Part 1 & Part 2)