Leonard Nimoy’s signature role as Spock always threatened to eclipse a career that spanned music, poetry and film directing. But anyone who reads up on Nimoy’s biography will see that the shadow of the Vulcan never held him back from pursuing passionately a variety of artistic endeavors over several decades. Here are five examples of how Nimoy was a Renaissance man of the arts.
1. He directed the box-office smash comedy “Three Men and a Baby”
A 1987 remake of a French comedy about three bachelors who find themselves having to take care of a baby doesn’t seem like it would be a fit for Leonard Nimoy as a director. But he managed to turn the film into an enjoyable box office hit. Nimoy, who had directed “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” and was coming off “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” was offered the script for “Three Men and a Baby” because of the humor that ran through “Star Trek IV.”
“For me it was an easier job than the others because there were no special effects, because there wasn’t all these gigantic sets to deal with and locations to deal with,” he told an interviewer with the Archive of American Television. “It was an uncomplicated movie. And fun. Fun. The scenes just worked … And suddenly I had another gigantic hit on my hands.”
2. Nimoy released four albums of spaced-out music from 1967 to 1970
His first full-length album was 1967’s “Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space” with a cover featuring the actor/singer in full “Star Trek” regalia holding a model of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
The album even opens with “Theme From Star Trek” and features tracks with titles like “Alien” and “Music to Watch Space Girls By.” According to author Mark Clark, author of “Star Trek FAQ,” Gene Rodenberry was unhappy with Nimoy’s musical incarnation and use of the theme song from the show and demanded a share of the album’s royalties.
Subsequent albums by Nimoy downplayed his role as Spock.
These days, fans of both Nimoy and William Shatner can listen to them side-by-side with the album “Spaced Out: The Best of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.” You can sample it here.
3. He often showed his romantic side with his unapologetically schmaltzy poetry.
Who knew that Spock could get so emotional? In books like “A Lifetime of Love” and “Come Be With Me,” Nimoy showed off his tenderhearted self. “"We are star-met. We are joined. We are blessed,” he wrote in one poem. “We who have found each other. We are the dream of the ages. We are the hope, the desire. We are love."
Not content to share his poems in book form, he also shared with his Twitter followers his lovelorn dispatches. “You and I have learned/The song of love,” began a poem he posted on Feb. 22, “and we sing it well.”
4. He was a photographer who stirred up Jewish passions with his book of nudes
In 2002, Nimoy published a book of photographs of nude women wearing only prayer shawls. Entitled “Shekhina,” the book stirred up the kind of criticism and drew comparisons to Andres Serrano’s controversial religious-themed photography.
But Nimoy said the intentions of the photographs were artistic. “I wasn’t thinking about profanity when I was doing this,” he said to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I was thinking beautiful and spiritual.”
Orthodox Jews saw things differently, criticizing the work for its immodesty. The “spat,” as it was described, led Nimoy to back out of a fundraiser in Seattle after the Jewish organization that was holding it refused to show slides of the work because they might offend some.
In another book of photographs that provoked passions, Nimoy photographed full-bodied women in the nude.
5. He was instrumental in resurrecting the historic Thalia Theater in Manhattan
The historic Thalia Theater at 250 W. 95th Street opened in 1931 and helped usher in movie theaters with sloped floors that allowed most of the audience a clear view of the screens. But the theater struggled to remain financially viable through the 1970s and closed in 1987. It opened again in 1993, but still struggled to stay open.
Then the nearby Symphony Space pitched in to resurrect the space, and Nimoy, who had long been associated with the organization, was instrumental in its revival. The theater was renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in his honor when it reopened on April 13, 2002.