In the second part of our exclusive interview with Leonard Nimoy, we talk to the veteran actor and photographer about his history (and possible future) with Star Trek. We also discuss Eddie Murphy’s almost-role in Star Trek IV, Mr.Nimoy’s books, photography and his relationship with William Shatner.
TrekMovie.com June 2008 Interview with Leonard Nimoy, Part 2
TrekMovie.com: We were talking about Star Trek IV earlier, and it has come back into the news recently. Eddie Murphy has been out promoting his new movie Meet Dave, which has a sci-fi feel to it. And he has been talking about how he was going to be in Star Trek IV, but he ended up not liking the character because it was too much like his [Beverly Hills Cop] Axel Foley character and how he really wanted to play a real Star Trek Vulcan Starfleet guy. Did you support the idea of Eddie in the film or did you think it was stunt casting?
Leonard Nimoy: I was called by Jeff Katzenberg, who was head of the studio, when I was prepping Star Trek IV. I remember his words very specifically. He said "I have either the best idea in the world or the worst idea in the world, Eddie Murphy said he would kill to be in a Star Trek movie." And I said, "I think you are right it is either the best or worst idea in the world." [laughs] I had several meetings with Mr. Murphy and what I said to him: "we are very flattered you want to be in a Star Trek movie, we admire you, you admire us, neither of us want to do any harm to each other, so we will work on a script. So if we could develop a script that would work we would do it, and if not we will say thank you to each other and let it go." And that is pretty much how it went. He made a movie, The Golden Child, instead. And I think he said later that he wished he would have done the Star Trek movie.
TrekMovie.com: I think he did say that. And now he is saying that he really wanted to play a Vulcan…
Leonard Nimoy: You know something Anthony, this is really interesting, this is the first I have heard of that. I didn’t know that.
TrekMovie.com: It could be retroactive…
Leonard Nimoy: No I believe him, but the fact is that that idea never got out on the table. So we were looking to use him as a fun human guy who was interacting with these guys from outer space. And we couldn’t get it to work in a way that he and we were satisfied. So I guess he was right in that it was a character that he had played before in some way. That is interesting. I had no idea that he was looking to play an entirely different kind of alien or Vulcan. We still admire Eddie Murphy and I hope he still admires us.
TrekMovie.com: Maybe JJ can put him in the next one, he is still a fan.
Leonard Nimoy: Who knows, who knows?
TrekMovie.com: Speaking of that, and I know the other actors have talked about how they acre signed on for more possible movies, do you feel that your Star Trek journey is now complete? Or are you open to more possibilities?
Leonard Nimoy: Oh you should never say never. I don’t have any reason to believe there is going to be more, and then again there is nothing that happens to me in this movie that would prevent me from doing more. It is not like the end of Spock necessarily. So I don’t know, we will see.
TrekMovie.com: Taking that same question back to the 60s, were there any stories that maybe you and DC [Fontana] talked about, or concepts that you really wish they gave you a chance to do on The Original Series.
Leonard Nimoy: I don’t think so. My memory is that I was constantly pleasantly surprised at the subject matter that we were dealing with. I thought we had some extremely talented and imaginative writers working for us. We didn’t always ring the bell. I am the first to admit that we made a number of turkeys, but considering the budget that we were working with and the time constraints, and that we were breaking new ground constantly, by and large the writers, directors and production people gave us wonderful stuff to work with and I was always pleased. Everyone once in a while I would get really frustrated and would say "Gene [Roddenberry], this script is really a problem" but you just get through it and hope the next one would be better, and often it was.
TrekMovie.com: Bill [Shatner] just released his new biography, Up Till Now. Your last biography was in 1996 with I Am Spock. Was that the last word, or is there a possibly a I Am Spock Again in your future?
Leonard Nimoy: I don’t have any plans for another ‘Spock’ venture or book. Something might occur to me or someone might present me with an idea, so again never say never.
TrekMovie.com: Speaking of books, any more poetry books?
Leonard Nimoy: No, all of my creative process is involved with photography. I have two books out there, The "Shekhina" book which has been out there for several years and is still selling well and the new book "The Full Body Project," which I am really proud of. It brings up an important subject.
TrekMovie.com: Regarding that book and project. It got a lot of media attention and a lot of that focused on the subject matter and your models and their size. I was wondering, did the media miss the point or get the point, by focusing on that?
Leonard Nimoy: I think both. Some got the point and some didn’t. I think what is important is that the book is out there and it is a book that makes a comment on what the culture’s values on what is beautiful. Beauty comes in all sizes and shapes. There are many many people, particularly women, who will never look like the models that are selling them the clothes. It is genetics or god or whatever that didn’t make them that way, but they can still be considered beautiful people. This book raises that issue. I know some people deeply affected in a positive way by it and I am very proud of that.
TrekMovie.com: Have you started working on your next photography project?
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah, I am on another project and deep into it, but it is premature to talk about it. I will just say it has to do with ‘identity.’
TrekMovie.com: Did you have a chance to see the Annie Liebowitz photos of the Indiana Jones movie in Vanity Fair? She did a lot of behind-the-scenes, with Lucas and Spielberg and Harrison Ford.
Leonard Nimoy: Yes. I think I saw some of that.
TrekMovie.com: My first thought when I saw that was ‘I wonder if Leonard Nimoy brought his camera to the set?’
Leonard Nimoy: No, I did that once. For Annie Leibowitz to do that, that is a very professional situation where she is hired to come in and do a photo essay on a movie being made and that is part of the business and we understand that. I did it once, when I was acting on a movie with Yul Brenner in Spain, and on a day that I was not filming I came to the set with a camera. And I realized that as soon as I pulled my camera out and pointed it at people and actors who were relaxing, they immediately went into some kind of role and pose as if they had to perform for my camera. And I realized that is an experience I have had too. When I am an actor and people are shooting candid snapshots, I feel a sense of responsibility and I didn’t want to impose that on these actors. I feel it is unfair and an invasion of their private movements. So I never did it again. If someone is hired to shoot and help promote the movie, that is a different situation entirely and we know that. That is part of your job.
TrekMovie.com: That brings up an interesting point. There are new DVDs of the digitally remastered Star Trek. On them there is a special feature with Billy Blackburn, who carried a camera around. So are you saying that when Billy pulled out his camera you guys were all posing.
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah he did, you are right. It dips into that territory. I don’t hold it against Billy, it is OK, it is alright. We like Billy and it is OK, but as a general rule I think it is an invasion.
TrekMovie.com: You talked about the promotion of this new movie. You get interviewed all the time, but starting about nine months from now, the marketing for this movie is going to be huge. There is going to be lots more interviews and you are going to be on all the TV shows. How do you feel about going back into that publicity blitz?
Leonard Nimoy: I am looking forward to it! I am very excited about this movie and I want to be as supportive of it as possible. And I look forward to the day they call me and say they need me to go to work to get this movie out to the public.
TrekMovie.com: I understand you were a guest on Bill’s new talk show [Raw Nerve].
Leonard Nimoy: Yeah, we had a wonderful conversation. I think we spoke much longer and he got much more material than he needed for what is a half-hour show. We talked for a long time. I thought it was a very new and special and rich conversations. We touched on subjects that were never touched on before as well as reviewing some of the things we have talked about before. I think it is going to be quite wonderful to watch and I am looking forward to seeing it myself, but it is going to be edited so I don’t know what to expect. But I got a very nice call from Bill a week after we had done it thanking me and he felt we had got into some wonderful stuff.
TrekMovie.com: So it will almost be like a follow-up to "Mind Meld?"
Leonard Nimoy: That is right, something like that exactly.
TrekMovie.com: In an interview later, he said he was afraid to ask you if you had read his book. So I am going to ask you, did you read his new book?
Leonard Nimoy: [laughs] That is very funny. He was afraid to ask me? I didn’t think Bill Shatner was afraid of anything. I will have that conversation with him personally.
See Leonard Live!
Leonard Nimoy will be appearing live at Creation’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas.