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Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy’s daughter speaks about his meteoric rise and final days

Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy’s daughter speaks about his meteoric rise and final days
08 Jul
1:32

It was a great life, Jim, but not necessarily as we knew it…

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who gave us legendary Star Trek character Mr Spock, was also a cabbie, a tropical fish store worker, a vacuum cleaner seller and a vending machine serviceman.

All this before being beamed up to the Starship Enterprise and a truly stellar screen career.

Now the man behind the quizzical looks, “illogical” catchphrase and those pointy Vulcan ears is revealed by his daughter in a film which lifts awareness about a crippling disease he suffered.

Three years ago, Julie Nimoy held hands with her father as he lay dying in a Los Angeles hospital.

Producer Julie tells the Sunday Mirror: “He took my hands. He said: ‘Julie I love you. I’m very proud of you. I just want you to be able to let me go now. It’s time for me, I can’t do this any more’.”

Nimoy, 83, spent his final days surrounded by loved ones including six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Last photo of Leonard and Julie together in 2015 just before he died
(Image: Julie Leonard)

He told stories and moved his ­shoulders in time to his favourite song, The Boxer, by Paul Simon.

And he shared a special conversation with each and every relative.

“He was so happy, he felt complete. Those last moments are forever in my mind. I will never forget,” Julie adds.

As the end drew near, Nimoy was taken home, but never regained consciousness – dying the following morning with a smile on his face.

In the new film, proud Julie reveals her father’s humble beginnings, his rise to fame, his loves – and his health fight.

Nimoy was born in the down-to-earth West End district of Boston, Massachusetts, to parents Max and Dora, who had fled their native Russia.

William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock

His father, a barber, wasn’t enthusiastic about his son going into acting.

But Nimoy had been hooked from the day, aged just eight, he saw The ­Hunchback of Notre Dame at the cinema and felt incredibly moved by the ­character’s sense of isolation.

The wannabe actor saved money by selling vacuum cleaners and bought a train ticket to California, where he met Julie’s mother, his first wife Sandi, at a theatre. They wed in February 1954.

Julie was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where Nimoy was stationed during a spell with the army.

The family returned to Los Angeles where he juggled a string of jobs with acting auditions. Julie, 63, goes on: “Before my dad got the series [Star Trek] he was literally pounding the pavement to find the acting work.

“He had vending machines which I was really obsessed with. I was five and they had these little trinkets in them. I would go into his stash and he’d go: ‘No, no, don’t take all those’.”

He landed a string of parts in US TV shows.

Then, in the mid 1960s, Nimoy bagged the role of Spock, alongside William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk. The rest, as they say, is history.

And Julie – who used to watch Star Trek on a friend’s colour TV – reveals how their life changed overnight. She recalls: “Dad tried to keep life normal but when the show started and he became the most popular character, our mailman was getting very frustrated!

Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock
(Image: Paramount Pictures)

“He was bringing us these post office bags and buckets full of mail.

“Things really changed. We had fans coming to our house, climbing up to my bedroom window which faced the street.

“We’d go to the most obscure places on vacation and people were coming up to us asking for autographs and taking pictures. My brother and I were looking at each other like: ‘Here we go again. We can’t have a normal life any more’.”

Her father’s immense fame came at a price. The family was forced to move house and Nimoy spent long hours at the studio and later travelling the globe.

But he was determined his celebrity didn’t have a negative impact on his kids.

Julie and Adam went to a local school and their friends were the children of everyday folk, not Hollywood stars.

Of course, they did enjoy the trappings of success – like flying.

Julie reveals: “I had a very close ­relationship with my dad because we had a lot of hobbies in common.

Leonard and daughter Julie were close
(Image: Julie Leonard)

“We loved flying. He first learned how to fly in London. He was the pilot, I was his pinch hitter (pilot’s companion).

“To start off, we’d just fly around ­California but one summer when he had to be in Michigan and Wisconsin for work I said: ‘Let’s take the summer and go, let’s fly there in our plane’.”

On screen, the actor went from Star Trek to Mission Impossible before embarking on a theatrical career which included the one-man show Vincent.

Nimoy also appeared in Star Trek movies – directing two of them.
He also directed hit comedy Three Men and A Baby, highest grossing film of 1987.

There were ups and downs off screen, however. Nimoy, who had a passion for photography and animals, was divorced from Julie’s mum in 1987.

He went on to wed Susan Bay and they were married for 26 years until his death from COPD – a group of lung diseases, including emphysema and bronchitis, which can occur together.

Leonard and Julie on his boat in Lake Tahoe
(Image: Julie Leonard)

Julie tells how Nimoy smoked from his late teens, saying: “Dad tried to emulate Marlon Brando because he was very cool – white T-shirt and the cigarette. Dad wanted that look. Everybody smoked back then, it was a lifestyle. Dad smoked all the time – in bed and in the car with the windows rolled up.”

The actor called himself an “Olympic championship smoker”, but eventually managed to quit. But by 55, he was ­experiencing lingering bronchitis and a shortness of breath. Julie adds: “His doctor at the time told him he had allergies. He was on inhalers and medication.

“It wasn’t until 2013 that he was ­officially diagnosed. He had these ­symptoms happening for a long time.”

Her husband David Knight, co-producer of their documentary, added: “That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to create awareness. There’s millions of people who have COPD but they’ve never officially been diagnosed.

“If someone watches our film and has the symptoms, they can get checked out.”

Adam, Julie Leonard and Susan at his granddaughter’s graduation
(Image: Julie Leonard)

Julie tells how the illness took its toll in her dad’s later years, adding: “As Dad got older, his breathing got considerably worse and he really couldn’t keep up.

“I knew this was going to be progressive and he wasn’t going to get better.”

In 2014 his battle with COPD became public when he was snapped in a wheelchair with his oxygen. Initially very upset, he went on to raise awareness of the disease, tweeting often to over a million followers about the dangers of cigarettes.

Some 30 million people in the US suffer from COPD, the third biggest killer behind heart disease and cancer. The UK has an estimated three million sufferers.

Julie’s film has been seen in the US and she adds: “We feel we changed people’s minds a bit. We got notes and emails saying we helped bring awareness. I think my father would be very proud.

“I miss him greatly and think of him all the time. I know he’s in a better place and not feeling the pain he felt when he was sick. But he left quite a legacy.”

  • Remembering Leonard Nimoy – 9pm, Wednesday July 25. Broadcast by PBS America on Freeview channel 94, Freesat 155, Virgin Media 276, Sky 160.

Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/star-trek-actor-leonard-nimoys-12869661

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