Leonard Nimoy riffs on William Shatner, George Lucas and … Jimi Hendrix?
I’m not sure who had more fun Friday night, Leonard Nimoy or the sold-out audience that came to see him at the first night of the inaugural Hero Complex Film Festival. Early on, I knew we were going to have a good ride when the Starfleet icon sent the audience into delirious laughter with his overwrought impression of William Shatner delivering the eulogy for Spock at the end of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
“Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was most… human.” Absolutely priceless. The conversation that followed was lively and unpredictable (who expected to hear about Nimoy’s chance meeting with rock demi-god Jimi Hendrix in Cleveland four decades ago?) and bittersweet. The dynamic 79-year-old has just announced his retirement from acting and, after a few “Trek”-related appearances later this year, he is stepping away from the public spotlight to enjoy his passions for family, art collecting and photography.
We’ll have video from the night here at the Hero Complex in the days to come. But here are a few highlights of a 45-minute discussion that went well past an hour because the man in the spotlight was in no rush to call it a night.
On “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, whom “Trek” fans should view with more warmth: “George Lucas really did us all a big favor. ‘Star Wars‘ is what put ‘Star Trek’ back into production.”
On directing Shatner in two of the “Trek” films, including “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” which was the film screened on Friday night and also stands as the highest-grossing Starfleet film featuring the original crew. ”I had been wanting to direct for some time. I had been told many times, ‘You should be a director,’ and I always took it as an insult; there must be something wrong with my acting. When Bill Shatner heard I was going to direct a ‘Star Trek” movie he went into deep shock. He was really worried. Look, everybody knows that we have become very, very good friends. But we’ve always been like two competitive siblings. But [as for me directing him] it worked out pretty well.”
On the ending of “Wrath of Khan” that shows Spock’s sleek space casket in a not-so-final resting place on a regenerating planet: ”I was caught by surprise by the ending…. I was sitting there watching it and the camera goes across some foliage, some mist — a little magical kind of look — and guess what, there’s the black tube … whoa, I think I’m going to get a call from Paramount.”
On “Fringe,” the show that will go down as his (presumably) final acting role, Nimoy said he adored the way the character of William Bell went out in an act of self-sacrifice that “echoed” the cinematic death of Spock but he candidly admitted that he had trepidations early on about the show and his flimsy nature of his character: “I agreed to do three episodes and those episodes, for me, weren’t terribly satisfying because they used me to deliver information.‘This is what you have to watch out for.’ ‘You have to trust me.’ ‘You better believe me.’ ‘You have every reason not to believe me, but you have to believe me…’ ‘I must have said that five times. Then they said they were going to do two more and I said, ‘No, I haven’t enjoyed this very much, frankly.’”
(Backstage, Nimoy also told me that he especially admired the talents and technique of “Fringe” costar John Noble but that it could be a bit maddening to work on a scene with him. “His voice gets so low at the end of his lines — it’s the way the character speaks and it’s very effective — but, oh, sometimes it makes it hard. In scenes I wouldn’t I know if he was done with his lines. I started reading his lips.”)
On Zachary Quinto: “They sent me some footage to look at when they were deciding who should do that job. i said, ‘He looks enough like me to make it work.’ But more importantly you can see him thinking, there’s a brain [there behind his eyes], there’s some thought going on, which is very important to this character because there’s so much inner life in the Spock character. Zachary is a very well-trained and intelligent actor…. I’m very flattered to see the character live on with a good actor…. [But] when we first met, I said, ‘Do you have any idea what you’re getting into?’”
There’s obviously much, much more from the interview, I’ll try to put up more quotes and, as I said, we’ll have some nicely edited video. But right now it’s time to get ready for Round Two: Saturday night we’ll be showing a little film called “The Dark Knight” and the man on stage will be none other than Christopher Nolan. The big finale on Sunday is a double feature with ”Alien” and “Blade Runner” and Ridley Scott himself in the spotlight. For ticket information go to sales website. If you tweet about the event, please use the #HCFF hash tag.
– Geoff Boucher
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