Tribeca: Leonard Nimoy's Son Talks Paying Tribute to His Famous Father in 'Star Trek' Doc (Q&A)
For The Love of Spock is no average documentary about Star Trek's fan-favorite vulcan, nor Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the role from the show's 1966 debut through to 2013's big screen Star Trek Into Darkness. Directed by his son Adam Nimoy, the movie explores the final frontier between Leonard Nimoy's onscreen alter-ego and the actor under the pointed-ears both as an individual and as a father.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke to the 59-year-old director about the project, which receives its world premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday (and screens Monday with a chat with the director and Zachary Quinto).
Heat Vision breakdown
This doc is not only a retrospective of Leonard Nimoy's career, but also a personal look at his life and his relationship with you. Was that something you anticipated when you started?
Initially, I envisioned the project with my father back in 2014 as a documentary that was only about Mr. Spock. For a long time, my dad was saying he wanted to keep the information about his life and his career minimal. We didn't want it to be "The Leonard Nimoy Show," it was supposed to be something to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise.
But when he passed away, it became clear that the documentary needed to expand to encompass his life as well, particularly because of the fan reaction, which surprised me — so many people were mourning not only the man who played Spock, but the artist as well. More and more people told me that, if I wanted to make the film unique, it was essential that I add my own story about my relationship to my father. Otherwise, anyone can make a documentary about Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock.
How did you feel about that?
I was worried on a number of fronts. I’ve enjoyed my anonymity for the last 50 years. I know what the celebrity lifestyle is like, and it wasn't something that I wanted to put myself out there for. Also, how much do I tell? It's not about my trials and tribulations with Leonard Nimoy. It's a Spock doc. I told as much of the truth as I could, but just enough that people understood that there were a lot of ups and downs before we became very close in the last chapter of my dad's life.
Was there a point after your father's death when you considered just walking away from the doc altogether?
That thought never occurred to me. I think Dad always wanted me to carry on and pursue completing the film. We did have to take a break, heal and experience the incredible emotions and repercussions of having lost my father, but there was never any doubt that I’d finish the film.
There's a great moment in the movie where you go to a Star Trek convention and admit that it's your first time there. Was Star Trek fandom something from which you previously distanced yourself?
It was my first Las Vegas convention — I was at the Chicago convention where my father made his farewell appearance in 2011, but I had never been to the worldwide, annual Las Vegas get-together before that scene.
I had been with my dad through those early years and during the fandom, and with him in the movies and doing his plays, and I felt like I'd had enough of that and had to step away. He was very supportive of the fans and very grateful for the fan base, but that was really for his career, his life — for him. I needed to create my own identity and be my own person — being Leonard Nimoy's son is great and it has afforded me many opportunities, but I also want to be Adam Nimoy.
Were you surprised by just how much love fans have for your father?
I've known about this all my life — the fan reaction, the impact that dad as Spock has had on fans. But seeing it firsthand was a bit of a jolt. It was very energizing and inspirational — people were just happy to shake my hand because there was a DNA connection, which on one hand, I found amusing, but on the other hand, really charming and disarming and very sweet. To feel that love that the fans had for him is special for me to experience. I'm enjoying it now in a way that I couldn't honestly do with dad, because I always felt I was walking in his shadow a little bit.
Now, of course, you're going to have a space inside Star Trek fandom yourself, as the creator of this doc.
I'm certainly willing to do that in the context of this film, of getting it out there and making people aware of it. I'm going to a number of Star Trek conventions and gatherings throughout the year; thereafter, I'm not so sure. I still have interests of my own that I want to pursue. This was something that I had to do as a tribute to my dad, and to provide closure for me. I'm a Star Trek fan, and I'm a Spock fan – I always have been and will be, but how much I continue to participate in this beyond the next year remains to be seen.
It's difficult to imagine this feature being more personal, or more difficult to put together: creating a tribute to an iconic actor and fictional character who also happens to be your dad, and doing so in a way that's both subjective and objective at the same time. Now that it's finished, do you have the space to look at it and think, "Yes, this is what I wanted to do?"
Here's the bottom line: I am so privileged and happy and proud to have contributed something to the legacy of Spock and of Leonard Nimoy. That was my goal, and we worked hard with the production team and the editorial team to achieve that. I'm very proud of the film, I think it's going to stand for many years to come. It's an informative look at what the Star Trek phenomenon is all about, and I feel like I've now contributed something to the Star Trek liturgy that's out there, and that is an incredibly satisfying feeling to have.
by Pamela McClintock