Since Comic Con 2007 one of the greatest sources of comfort for Trek fans was knowing that Leonard Nimoy had decided to come out of retirement for this new Star Trek. In a new exclusive interview with TrekMovie we talk to the original Spock about returning to the role, fan concerns about canon, Shatner, Fringe, Quinto’s Spock and much more. [interview contains SPOILERS]
TrekMovie interview with Leonard Nimoy
For my interview with Leonard Nimoy, it started off with him asking me a question…
Leonard Nimoy: You saw the movie, did you have some thoughts about it?
TrekMovie.com: Quite a few.
Nimoy: Good ones?
TrekMovie: [sarcastic] It’s OK
TrekMovie: You probably didn’t read my 4000 word review, but I did effuse over the film. …Maybe you you agree with this. The thought I came away with is that this feels like 1982 again to me. It feels like when Nick [Meyer] and Harve [Bennett] came in and said "let’s shake things up."… They kind of created a new bedrock, a look and tone, that flowed through a series of films. You changed things up in the second one, but certainly that series in the 80s was more based on the 82 film [Wrath of Khan], than on the 79 film [The Motion Picture].
Nimoy: I think that’s fair…the second Star Trek movie put the franchise back on track. The first one derailed us, it didn’t do us any good. Perhaps some people made some money. The second one put us back on track and what happened, unintentionally, we didn’t realize that we were at the beginning of a trilogy. That the three films, II, III and IV, told a story that had and arc to day and they hung together in an interesting way. III was obligatory, we had to get Spock back and IV was the completion of that cycle. After that, the films became somewhat of ‘toss something in the air and see what happens.’ And were not so grounded in continuity. But I think this film — I am not saying it is going to start a trilogy — but I think it is doing just exactly what you are describing. It creates a whole new way of looking at Star Trek. A fresh revitalizing of the franchise.
Nimoy thinks that "Star Trek" will put the franchise back on track, just like "Wrath of Khan"
TrekMovie: In a sense your character is an embodiment of the single timeline from "The Cage" through to episode you did on The Next Generation ["Unification"]. And they tie into that in this film, with you left on Romulus and all that. But you go back and what they have done is this kind of alternative timeline. What do you think of this notion of going back, but also kind of creating this open-ended new Star Trek future?
Nimoy: Well the alternative timeline gives them license to escape from canon concerns. I can’t see people saying ‘they shouldn’t do that because…’ or ‘that doesn’t tie in to such and such’ because it is a different time and place. Am I right about that?
TrekMovie: There is a strange irony with some fans. What you say is of course true and that is what Bob [Orci] and Alex [Kurtzman] would say. And in a way, by doing this, they preserve everything you guys ever did, because they are not changing any of that. If they had however said this movie takes place during the events of say "Balance of Terror" but everything looked different, then you could go ‘that is a total violation’ but what they are saying is, ‘no we are over here’ [on another timeline]. Some Trek fans appreciate that, but others would like to see something set right in there and try to get it close. But they are a smaller group of fans, but there are concerns over…
Nimoy: How small is that group?
TrekMovie: I would say 15% [number based on polls indicating the ‘purist’ element of fandom here at TrekMovie]
Nimoy: I don’t want to speak for JJ [Abrams] and Bob and Alex, they are certainly capable of speaking for themselves. There is no way in the world that a Star Trek film will please every Star Trek follower or fan, no way. And to try to would be a death sentence, you just can’t. You twist yourself into pretzels over ‘what are they going to say about this’…for god’s sake what are people going to say about Uhura and Spock having the relationship they have in this movie? What? I thought it was wonderful and touching and effective. I saw JJ quoted very recently on fan complaints of the kind you are referring to and what he said was something like "stay home and be angry" so just don’t see the movie, if that is what your life is about and that is the way you want to envision your relationship to Star Trek and the world, fine. This is a movie. It is a movie! You want to go see it — chances are you are going to enjoy yourself if you open your mind to it. If you go to see it to find fault and to point out the things you think are inconsistencies, chances are you won’t have a good time and you would have wasted your time and money so why bother? But if you go to it with an open mind, I think chances are very very good you will see very well made and interesting movie. The characters are all accessible. I think they are all well portrayed by very talented and intelligent actors. I’m impressed with every single one of them. I was shocked to see Winona Ryder so effective as Spock’s mother — I didn’t think it would work, I couldn’t envision her in the role. This really works — that wonderful scene between see and Zachary when he semi-apologizes for negating his human side and asks that she not take it as an insult, is so wonderful. They are both wonderful. I can’t see any reason to worry anymore about the people who are going to say this isn’t right. I am not worried about it.
Nimoy’s message to Trek fans — "have an open mind"
TrekMovie:I think most people aren’t worried now, but two years ago there were legitimate reasons to be asking questions…You, yourself, didn’t immediately come on board until after reading the script.
Nimoy: Yes, of course. And then there is the whole Shatner thing, and "if he is not in the movie it is not Star Trek and I wont see it, etc, etc."…OK, OK, it’s over. It’s all done, it is behind us.
TrekMovie: Speaking of Bill, you guys just had a nice get together [at the charity Horse show], what was that like?
Nimoy: We always have a lot of fun together, we finish each other’s sentences. We are like brothers, we are brothers. I consider Bill a very very close friend of mine and he feels the same way. We always enjoy each other. We get together for dinners every once in a while and I admire Bill. I admire his energy. I admire what he has done with his career. And there is nothing negative in our relationship.
TrekMovie: It seems like Chris [Pine] had a good time and hopefully we can put all that Bill vs. JJ nonsense behind us, because I don’t think it was ever as serious as people thought it was.
Nimoy: No. I think they were both playing it, frankly. I know Bill likes to play the press.
TrekMovie: I think some of this just doesn’t play well in print. Like back in 2007 in at the Trek convention in Vegas, you may have been there, when on stage Bill called JJ an a–hole. It is hard to convey his sense of humor when you just read it.
Nimoy: I wasn’t there for that so I can’t comment. Bill says JJ never offered him a role, JJ says he did, I am not passing judgment, it’s over.
TrekMovie: Well there is always the sequel. In our last interview you said you were open to it and I think recently you said it…
Nimoy: Never say never
TrekMovie: But you used to say ‘never’
Nimoy: Yeah, yeah, I know…I am older and wiser.
TrekMovie: In fact you have already said ‘yes’ to JJ…
Nimoy: I said I would take his call…oh for Fringe, yes. We shot the first piece and I will do a couple of episodes [next year]. It was very brief. Olivia walks into a room, doesn’t know where she is, looks around and she is in a strange place. I come in. She says "where am I and who are you?" and I answer, very very briefly and I introduce myself as William Bell and that is pretty much what the scene is about.
Nimoy in Fringe finale (airing next week)
TrekMovie: Didn’t Bill try hard to get you onto Boston Legal?
Nimoy: He asked me if I would do it and I said no…I said no because I thought it was ‘stunty’ and I didn’t want to do a stunt thing. Same thing with Heroes. They asked me to do a role in Heroes as well and I said no.
TrekMovie: To play Sylar’s father?
Nimoy: I guess so, yeah.
TrekMovie: In one of our first interviews you had talked about seeing Mission Impossible III, right after Comic-Con…in talking about Mission you noted that modern films are much more complex these days. So in looking at this film, at the plot and the time travel, and how it is spanning over many years, how do you feel about the complexity of this film?
Nimoy: In January I bumped into an acquaintance who said "how is the Star Trek movie?" and I said "I think it is great" and he said "did you direct it?" cause he really didn’t know, and I said "I wouldn’t know how." Which is true. The technology is so advanced over what we were doing when I was directing, I’d have to take a training course. I’d have to sit down with people and say "how do you do these shots?" I could learn how to do it, but going in I wouldn’t know how. It is extremely complex and sophisticated now. The budgets are multiples of what we had to work with originally, even in the movies, and light years over what we had on the series. It is a different world. And I have said this about JJ and I think this is the rock bottom core about what is going on here — there are some directors who can do that very very big canvas, like a Michael Bay for example, stuff that is big and bombastic. There are some directors who can do intimate, inter-character relationship moments. And not a lot of directors can do both, and I think JJ can. He has a sense of the action and the vision of the size and the scope of the thing, and he also gets down and in touch with the very very essence of what is going on with characters, and he does it extremely well.
TrekMovie: The scene you had with Zach [Quinto], did you say that was your first day on the job? That very emotional scene?
Nimoy: Yeah, that made it difficult. I hadn’t found my legs yet as an actor in the movie. I was OK. I don’t think it created a problem, but it took some focusing to get grounded in that scene. I think it worked out fine, I think the scene is very good. [laughs] but at the time I wish it came later in the schedule.
TrekMovie: In my viewing it seems to me that you have consciously evolved the character since the way you played him on The Next Generation. Was that flowing from the script or from yourself?
Nimoy: Both. I think the script suggested that Spock is further along in his life. And I think what I brought to it. I am further along in my life than the last time I played Spock. I am much more comfortable with what my life is all about and I think so is Spock. And I think he is able to talk to someone else about their life and offer some guidance and some philosophy.
Spock as we last saw him on TNG…
Spock (and Spock) in Nimoy’s first scene shot on new "Star Trek"
TrekMovie: There is so much talk about you and Zach and how you guys are like adopted father and son. He says he made the role his own, which is true…Once you mentioned that he did something that blew you away. I am curious now that I have seen the film, what was it that you went ‘oh that is really interesting’?
Nimoy: His relationship with Uhura, he played something that I was quite touched by. So did she for that matter. They both were terribly available for each other. I was really affected by his final moment with the Vulcan council when he rejected their invitation to go to the Vulcan Institute, and the way he said "live long and prosper."
TrekMovie: He almost said it as if there was a word that was supposed to come after, like "you bastards."
Nimoy: Or go f–k yourselves, to be specific
TrekMovie: but you were OK with that?
Nimoy: It caught me by surprise, but I thought it was terribly effective.
Nimoy is impressed with Quinto’s take on this pivotal scene
More TrekMovie Star Trek Interviews coming all week
This week is all interviews all the time at TrekMovie.com. We have exclusive interviews with most of the stars and JJ Abrams so keep tuning in, we will be posting a couple per day all week long. Next up, Zachary Quinto.