Actor, director, photographer, and LGBT ally Leonard Nimoy, beloved by millions across generations for his iconic Mr. Spock character in the Star Trek franchise, died today at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. Susan Bay Nimoy, his wife, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, reports The New York Times. He was 83.
As Virginia Heffernan noted in the Times obituary, he had multiple talents (his photos, for instance, were exhibited at major museums), but he became a "folk hero" due to his role as Mr. Spock. His role as the unflappable, logical, half-human, half-alien character, with the motto "Live long and prosper," resonated with generations of LGBT people, including Zachary Quinto, who posted a photo of Nimoy on his Instagram today with this note: "my heart is broken. i love you profoundly my dear friend. and i will miss you everyday. may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
Quinto took over the role of Spock in the 21st-century Star Trek movies, but Nimoy made appearances in them as well. In a 2012 interview for Out magazine, a sibling publication of The Advocate, Quinto told Aaron Hicklin how important Nimoy had been to him:
"The thing I see when I look at how my career has unfolded is this string of little miracles in a way. For example, I met Leonard Nimoy the night before my Star Trek audition at an awards seremony, but completely out of context--he had no idea who I was and I was going to meet J.J. [Abrams, the film's director] the next day."
"Leonard's involvement in my life has been profound and we've become incredibly close and I have such a deep admiration and love for him. He's an incredible man, and I'm so grateful that not only did I have this incredible creative experience and professional experience, but the absolute cherry for me on top of that whole experience is my relationship to Leonard and his wife, Susan -- I just love them -- we go to dinner, we hang out, we go to the theater, we spend time together, and I seek that out."
Gay actor George Takei, who costarred with Nimoy on the original Star Trek TV series and in several movies, memorialized his friend on Facebook, saying, "Today, the world lost a great man, and I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to 'Live Long And Prosper,' and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways."
Takei also did an interview on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports this morning, telling Mitchell, "The word extraordinary is often overused, but I think it's really appropriate for Leonard. He was an extraordinarily talented man, but he was also a very decent human being. His talent embraced directing as well as acting and photography. He was a very sensitive man. And we feel his passing very much. He had been ill for a long, long time, and we miss him very much." Watch the interview at the bottom of this page.
Nimoy was also eulogized by the man holding the highest office in the United States. President Obama released this statement via Twitter:
The multitalented Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek films in addition to other movies, such as The Good Mother and Three Men and a Baby, and TV programs. He wrote memoirs and poetry, acted in many other film and TV roles, and even tried his hand at singing.
An active supporter of the arts, Nimoy was recognized for his contributions when Symphony Space renamed the Thalia movie theater in Manhattan the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in 2002. That same year Nimoy published Shekhina, a book of black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women. In 2007 he published The Full Body Project, a book that showcased nude photographs of large women, in conjunction with a photo exhibit of the same title. Doing the photos "led me to a new consciousness about the fact that so many people live in body types that are not the type that's being sold by fashion models," Nimoy told NPR that year.
Despite his many other activities and interests, Nimoy accepted that he would always be identified with Spock. "Given the choice," he once wrote, "if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock."