Fantasia 2016 Interview: Adam Nimoy Remembers Leonard in FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK
The name Nimoy is very well-known in the worlds of celebrity, pop culture, and sci-fi fandom; Leonard Nimoy was a titan of all of these worlds, and is one of the most recognizable --- and beloved --- figures of them all. At Fantasia 2016, I was fortunate enough to sit down with his son Adam, who was premiering a documentary based on his father, For the Love of Spock.
Nimoy was gregarious when speaking about his famous father and the documentary he made with the senior Nimoy, who sadly passed away during filming. From what I gathered sitting down with Adam Nimoy, he is full of gratitude and love for both his father and his fans. Here's what we talked about. Check out the trailer below.
What was the genesis for FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK?
Adam Nimoy: For the Love of Spock started in part because of the documentary my dad and I had made about Boston. It was a half-hour documentary that really was supposed to be a home movie for the kids; we hired a crew in the summer of 2013 and walked around town. We visited where he (Leonard Nimoy) lived, worked, sold newspapers, and hung out — and he told anecdotes about his life in Boston.
It was such a wonderful experience and such a nice little film, that WGBH (the PBS Boston-area TV station) aired it. We were really proud of what we’d done and I really enjoyed the process of working with him on that.
The following year, I was aware that we were coming up on 50 years of Star Trek; September 8th of this year is the 50th anniversary. I wanted to do something to celebrate and I thought, “We should do a Spock doc.” Dad was immediately enthusiastic about it, so we started outlining it right away.
In the next few days, he came back to me because he’d done some Internet research. He’d Googled “Spock’s ears,” and was excited because he found them listed on 150,000 websites.
Of course, he passed away four months later. Then the doc started to evolve to include the life of my father as an artist, and then my life with Spock and Leonard, and the challenges involved.
I imagine that it must’ve been difficult to continue with the doc after Leonard’s passing.
We already had our production team together, and after he passed away, we just took a month off to regroup and start the mourning process, which doesn’t really end. The response to the loss of my dad from people all over the world was tremendous.
We knew his time was limited, and he knew it too, and wanted us to continue. It was more therapeutic to continue, frankly. It kept him close in my life, to review all the footage, and helped me through losing him. It’s still a wonderful process to be in.
It’s been a little over a year since we lost him, and it’s been nice to work through all this material, and build this film as a tribute.
We premiered the film at the Tribeca Film Festival in April; people were very enthusiastic about the film. I worked in TV for ten years, so I’ve brought some craft to it — and a number of people who’ve worked on the doc have made other films, so they’ve brought their expertise as well.
After the debut, we made some minor changes to make For the Love of Spock even better. I hope it’ll appeal to Star Trek fans as well as to people who don’t know much about Star Trek. We were able to acquire pristine master copies of the series that we used in the doc — you usually don’t see Star Trek on the big screen, like in our film, so it’s very exciting.
Your Kickstarter backer list was massive. Now that they’ve gotten their perks, what do you have to do for your own distributor — include special features?
It’ll be downloadable from iTunes. People can search #spockdoc or @loveofspock. We’ll have lots of additional materials for a general audience to watch, chapters we’ve added. The Kickstarter screenings were early on; we’ve added things and have changed the cut with feedback from our backers as well as from Tribeca.
But yeah, there will plenty of additional material for download — photos, outtakes, and such. That’s a hazard of going through all that stuff on Mr. Spock, there’s just so much stuff to go through — the series, the animated series, my dad’s photography, other TV shows he appeared in, etc. That was the biggest challenge, just to tell his life story in less than two hours from all this stuff.
As you’ve been working on this doc, was there anything new you’ve learned about your dad?
A couple of things. When we started going through his body of work, it was overwhelming. As he said in the doc, his priority was career over family, and that was a challenge for us. Going through his massive body of work included poetry, TV voiceovers, photography — I found a lot of things I’d never seen before.
The other thing that was a revelation was this letter he wrote to me in 1973 about the challenges in our relationship, which I read in our movie. That letter didn’t exist for me until December of last year. I was going through old boxes, and found this three-and-a-half page letter on legal paper commenting on the challenges in our relationship. That was a very important part of this movie for me, because it showed his side of the story; it was auspicious that it showed up.
It’s touching and humanizing; everyone sees Spock as this pop culture icon, and it’s wonderful to see who he really was.
That was part of the objective of the film, to give a deep look at Spock, but also to give a more complex view of who Leonard Nimoy was. We jump even further and talk about the challenges of being in a celebrity family, too. While there are a lot of privileges, there are a lot of responsibilities that come with that mantle.
We also show respect to the fan base, which he knew early on; it begins and ends with the fans. For the Love of Spock is a gift to the fans to celebrate the iconic character that they fell in love with.
Do you run into fans on a daily or weekly basis?
Now, daily, because I’ve stepped out of the shadows of anonymity to share this film, to celebrate Leonard’s legacy, and to mourn his passing together. For the Love of Spock is coming out in September, and I’d like to say: please come find us! There’s a theatrical release in the States; we’re still working on Canada, but it’ll be on VOD on September 9th, the day after the anniversary of the airing of that first Star Trek episode.
I really hope this film is satisfying to Star Trek fans and adds a new dimension to who they thought Spock/Leonard was, and why people react the way they do to this figure; we see him everywhere. I hope that the people who weren’t that familiar with Spock get a great education as to who he was. I also hope the film resonates with people on a personal level.
The story I’m trying to tell is that of a father and son who’ve lost their connection to each other due to challenges in their relationship. The celebrity aspect made things more difficult for us, but through time, effort, and frankly, individual recovery work, we were able to reconnect.
For the last five years of his life, my dad was there for me whenever I needed, and we had a close relationship. I was able to celebrate his life through this film; it’s more than just a Star Trek story (although Star Trek was a huge part of it).