By Peter Hossli (text) and Charly Kurz (fotos)
Leonard Nimoy: Begin!
You seem a bit tense, even though you declared you were going into retirement three years ago. Now you’re already 76 years old. Why do you still work?
Nimoy: Oh, Peter, why do we eat? To live, to be alive. I enjoy my life. I like to work. I like to be productive. I like to explore and to learn.
You write, you photograph, you act. It seems almost as if you’re running away from death.
Nimoy: I think about death. I think about how much time I have left. I put a clock in place that runs backwards. It tells me how much time I have left.
Where does the data for that clock come from?
Nimoy: I got it from life insurance companies. They charge you a premium based on how many years you have left. They use your age, your family history, and your health condition. It will cost you less to buy life insurance, than me, because I will die before you.
Why is it important for you to know how much time you have left?
Nimoy: I don’t want to waste any time. Even if I’m not doing anything, I want to enjoy that time. If I’m conscious of the time, then I don’t waste it. I’m conscious of the time I’m spending with you. I’m giving you time which is part of my life. I’m okay about it, because it is not wasted. It’s a useful conversation.
You preserve time by taking pictures. Why do you photograph?
Nimoy: Photography is a great outlet for me because I can generate great projects. If I come up with an idea, I can just go out and do it. I don’t have to ask permission from anybody. I don’t need to raise money. I don’t need to hire a writer; I don’t need actors or a script.
When you were 40 years old and on the pinnacle of your career, you decided to go back to school to study photography. Why
Nimoy: When I was a teenager, I had to make a decision whether I wanted to be an actor or a photographer. I decided to be an actor because I had acting opportunities. I left Boston and took a train to go to California to study acting. But I always loved photography. I did three seasons of “Star Trek” and went right into “Mission: Impossible” for two years. So for five years, every day, I went steady at acting, acting, acting. I made a good living, put away some money. I felt that I could always pick up an acting job here and there because I had built up a reputation. So I thought maybe I should pursue photography.
People say you hit a ceiling as an actor. Everybody just wanted to see you as Spock, the first officer on Starship Enterprise.
Nimoy: That’s wrong. I decided to change careers because I thought I had accomplished enough as an actor. I didn’t need to do that anymore. But I needed to be a photographer. That was my greatest desire now. I worked with commercial photographers and realized that I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do personal work, fine art photography.
You latest book is called “The Full Body Project”. You photograph very large naked women. Why do they fascinate you?
Nimoy: They are very unusual. You don’t see pictures like these very much. You don’t see them in the fashion magazines; you don’t see them in the advertising business. I’m interested in the unusual. There is a very small percentage of woman who are born with the body of a supermodel, or will ever have a body like that, no matter how hard they try, no matter how hard they diet, no matter how many pills they take, no matter how much surgery they do. They will not look like them. These women are not trying to look like that. They’re comfortable in their own skin. That’s what makes these images important to me.
It looks like you have a fetish for fat women. Do they excite you?
Nimoy: No, no. I don’t get excited about any of my models. I’m excited photographing them, but I don’t get sexually excited.
For years you’ve photographed beautiful women. Artists often have intense relationships with their models. How about you?
Nimoy: This is strictly a professional relationship. We’re working together. It’s the same when I go work with an actress or an actor. I’m not sexually attracted to the actress. We have work to do. Here, the job is to find the proper way to photograph them.
You started this book by photographing one really large model. What went through your head as she undressed herself for the first time?
Nimoy: I though, wow, that’s different. Then I asked myself how I should photograph her. I was really scared.
How did you overcome your fear?
Nimoy: By doing what I know how to do, by going to work. No matter how frightened I am of a project, I work my way through it. With that, fear goes away and it becomes a process of work. Once I began working with the group, I was very comfortable.
By photographing large models you’re going into an almost forbidden place. How do you avoid being voyeuristic?
Nimoy: Voyeurism or objectifying women is what “Playboy” and “Hustler” do. Those magazines are voyeuristic. I’m not voyeuristic, I’m not objectifying women, I’m not degrading them, I’m not demeaning them, I’m not holding them up as objects for lust or sexuality. I’m doing work that has social interest.
Hollywood made you a rich man. There is hardly another industry that creates the way that women need to look. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to go after the people that are paying for your villa here in Bel Air?
Nimoy: To a certain extent, Hollywood is to blame. But Hollywood reflects what’s happening in the culture. The culture says a certain kind of woman is beautiful, so Hollywood hires that kind of woman and puts her in movies. Hollywood doesn’t lead. Hollywood follows.
How has this project changed your ideal of the female body?
Nimoy: I’m married to a woman I love very much. We’ve been married for twenty years. And I find her very desirable. That’s my story. My book is not about sexuality. It is about humanity. This is about human beings who have been marginalized by the culture. The culture forces women to try to achieve a different kind of look. These woman are who they are, they’re human beings, they’re flesh and blood. They’re very, very real. They are beautiful women. Women in our culture are most congratulated for losing weight. That is crazy.
American doctors warn of an obesity crisis. 60 percent of the U.S. population is overweight.
Nimoy: Let’s define obesity. There is overweight and there is obesity. Science tells us that being overweight is not a bad thing. Obese can be bad, but overweight is not necessarily a bad thing. People who are considered overweight very often are healthier, and they live longer lives than some of the people who are thin.
Still, you celebrate an unhealthy lifestyle.
Nimoy: It’s the advertising people who are celebrating an unhealthy lifestyle: Go on a binge diet. Eat only celery and lettuce for three days. I’m not advocating anything unhealthy. Obesity can be unhealthy. It can lead to heart trouble, it can lead to diabetes, and it can lead to bad knees. I know that and I understand that. I’m not saying get fat. I’m just opening up the discussion.
“The New York Times” says these pictures empower women. Why does it need a man to do that?
Nimoy: A woman empowering women just doesn’t get as much attention as a man doing it. The previous book I did also empowered women, the Shekhina book. That was about the woman as God.
That book got you into trouble with orthodox Jews. They criticized you for being blasphemous.
Nimoy: Listen, if there is a God, when I die and I’m going to meet God, I would rather it be a woman than a man.
Will you meet God?
Nimoy: I have no idea.
Let’s talk about “Star Trek”.
Nimoy: Why? Is this really necessary?
Currently you’re preparing another “Star Trek” movie. You play Spock as an old man. What kind of ailments does he have?
Nimoy: [laughs, then picks up a photograph] Whenever you go to Rome next time you need to visit Villa Borghese. You’ll find Canova’s Paulina sculpture. It’s simply gorgeous. Yes, I’m in the new “Star Trek” movie. Let’s leave it at that.
You can play the part because the character Spock was resurrected after he died. Do you believe in life after death?
Before you were Spock you acted in more than 50 films and television series. What was it about Spock that gave you a career?
Nimoy: It is a very intriguing character. My job is to make the character believable. [He picks up a sculpture and explains why he photographed it] Spock is an interesting character, unusual, very intelligence; I think people enjoy the intelligence of the character. He also has a sense of humor; he‘s extremely dependable, useful in a crisis, a problem solver, and a friend of the humans.
For many people, you’re Spock with a camera. Has the character become a burden for you?
Nimoy: No. I don’t even think about this anymore. I do what I do. People either except what I do or they don’t. Having been Spock helps me because I’m a public figure. It helps me to attract interest to what I’m doing. I can attract more interest to this work than somebody who is totally unknown.
What does it take to leave a character like Spock behind?
Nimoy: I don’t worry about it, I just do what I. I let it take me where it takes me. If it takes me away from Spock, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, fine. I can’t spend my time worrying what’s going to happen with public perception. That’s a waste of time. I don’t have any control over it. I don’t have any influence over it. If I make an image I take responsibility for it. I can’t take any responsibility for people think for me as Spock or a photographer. I’m not interested in that.
In the mid-70s you wrote a book called “I’m not Spock”. Your fans criticized you for it. Why did chose that title?
Nimoy: I am not Spock. I don’t talk like him. I don’t walk like him. I don’t live like him. I am not Spock, that’s all.
People rejected the title
Nimoy: I wrote that book because I was getting a lot of questions about Spock, about “Star Trek” and about my career. While I was writing the book I was in the airport in San Francisco. A little boy saw me. His mom said “look who is standing right here in front of you, this is your favorite person, you are watching him on TV every day”. The boy had no idea what his mother was talking about. “This is Mr. Spock, go and say hello”. And he still didn’t see it, for a good reason. I didn’t have the make up, the ears, the costume; Mr. Spock was not standing in front of him. What the mother meant to say was: this is the actor who is playing Spock. But she didn’t say that, she said, this is Spock. For this little boy I was not Spock. That’s why I called the book “I am not Spock”. Well, it was a mistake. People misread my intention. They thought I was rejecting the character. I was not. Spock. It’s a great character, positive, useful, intelligent.
“Star Trek” still has tremendous culture resonance. How has its impact changed over the years?
Nimoy: I haven’t paid much to what’s been happening to “Star Trek”. I’ve been out of it since 1989, almost 20 years. Now we’re going into a project that in its own way is going to be a very important project if it works. It will revitalize the entire “Star Trek” franchise. It will be a very big, very expensive movie, much more expansive than any of the movies I was involved with. I directed two “Star Trek” films, the last one I directed, the budget was about 27 million dollar. With this one, the budget will be about 150 million dollars.
“Star Trek” made you a rich man. Is there any money in your photography?
Nimoy: No, no, no. [pointing to the photographer] Maybe he can make a living because he picks up a camera and asks, “what do you need” and then he shoots it. I don’t do that. There is no money in what I do. My hourly pay for my projects is pennies. I love the idea that somebody wants to buy some of my pictures. I love the idea that somebody wants to buy some of my books. But I can’t make any money out of it. I spend more money on these projects than I make.
You’re part of the liberal wing of Hollywood, and you donated $2300 to Barack Obama’s presidential bid. What do you see in him?
Nimoy: He’s sincere, honest, but above all intelligent. I want to see an intelligent President. I don’t care whether it’s Hillary Clinton or him; I want somebody with some ideas who can solve some problems. We haven’t had any good ideas in our administration in years. Instead, they started this disgusting war in Iraq. It has made a mess in Iraq, in our country and in the rest of the world. The perception of the United States is a mess. Everyone is desperately waiting for next November so we can change the administration.
You celebrate women in your books. Why don’t you support Hillary Clinton?
Nimoy: She’s intelligent. She may be a little bit too political for me. But I’d be happy if she’d win. It’s fine with me. I’m looking for change. We need change.
The American press would love to see her run against Rudy Giuliani. That’ll be quite a fight.
Nimoy: The US press has become stupid, lazy, and less than useful. The press has not done a decent job of keeping the country informed, and pursuing important and interesting stories. We’re so preoccupied with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. It’s crazy the space they’re getting, the attention they’re getting. It’s total madness. And people eat it up. They want to be diverted from the reality of their lives.
Isn’t that a bit hypocrite? Hollywood – your industry – profits greatly from stories about stars.
Nimoy: I can’t speak about Hollywood anymore. I’m not a Hollywood person. I don’t make movies. I act in one. I have nothing to do with Hollywood.
Leonard Nimoy is soooo cool!!! He made Spock cool!
What kind of question is “You celebrate women in your books. Why don’t you support Hillary Clinton?”
The logical (pun intended) response to that would have been “you’re a racist if you don’t support Obama.” It’s a seriously dumb and loaded question.
Then you get into his face about being “hypocrite” (sic) because he is “Hollywood” and he benefits of stories of Paris Hilton? Please explain how a story about Paris Hilton in, say, Time Magazine, helps Leonard Nimoy.
Or was the objective of the interview to be an antagonizing dick? The guy is an actor, for crying out loud.
I really don’t see why you kept asking Mr. Nimoy about Star Trek when he clearly wanted to discuss his art and other things.
We all love Spock and Star Trek, but he does other, wonderful things with his life. He wants to share those things, so let him.
I was angered by your stating that Mr. Nimoy seems to have a fetish for large women and the other sexual comments you made–he stated here (and has stated all along) that this project was not about sex or lust, it was about showing that any woman who is comfortable with herself is beautiful.
You would do better if you allowed the guest to share with you, rather than trying to force the conversation to support your own agenda.
Mr. Nimoy said his pictures weren’t about sex or lust…what’s wrong with a man finding a BBW sexy? After all a BBW is softer to hold than some 2×4 wooden, bony body of a woman!
I agree, it was a pretty agressive interview.
As a Star Trek fan since I was a boy, I am delighted that the actor that brought my hero to life is a diversity-welcoming progressive liberal like me. He proves that you don’t necessarily become more conservative as you get older.
I’m a big TREK fan and I agree that Nimoy is a great actor as well as an equally great intellect as far as anyone in Hollywood goes, but I am NOT onboard with his politics. I don’t think “everyone” is waiting for a new administration, and I don’t think any of the three current candidates can completely “solve” current problems, particularly the one in Iraq. I wish Hollywood and particularly the actors would stay off he pulpit when it comes to politics and I wish journalists wouldn’t ask them about it. If I’m going to read an interview with Leonard Nimoy, I’d much rather know why (other than he liked the scipt – we all know that) he retook the role of Spock in a movie directed by a Star Wars fan when he’s rejected countless offers to return to the franchise over the last seventeen years.
This is really a wise man. What a clear mind he has!. He had kind and accurate answers for agressive questions even when he must be really bored of Trek and of people accusing him of having a fetish for big women (what if he does btw?). Love the way he explained he wants to dignify women and make us feel beautiful in our real bodies. People like mr. Nimoy makes our world a little better.
Mr. Nimoy has been a hero to me. He gave live to one of the most respected individal in the Star Trek Universe. I watched as a teenager and own all of the ST DVDs. I have a large collection of photos of Mr. Nimoy many of which I took myself. He might not realize it but he has one of my photographs in his personal collection. His assistant called and asked for a photo he had seen made at the 20th anniversary Con. in L. A. I met him at one of the convention he was very gracious and kind. I have all (multiple copies)the poetry books, and the first photographic book. For 20 or more years I was a close pen-pal with Ms. Victor his first assistant. The world lost a wonderful, kind and loving woman when she died,I still keep in touch with her husband.
“ALL THAT HE IS” was a project in honor of his specialness as a man, actor, author, photographer, a kind and generous benifactor to many charities.
Leonard Nimoy is a fine man, multi talented, a wise and beautiful soul. I am sure he will someday meet his maker and I hope God is a woman, just for him.
Leonard Nimoy needs his own life. Spock is not REAL(unfortunately).
He likes art, so let him make art.Ok?
GODDESS is here now as ETYHVH
Roya Dayspring is 5’2″ and
weighs in at 197 for now, that
is. She would like to send Mr.
Nimoy a photo and offer herself
as a potential “subject matter”
GOD GOES GLOBAL ! Just think
What if GOD has arrived on Que
and taken on female form?
Investigate. Oh yes and “FASCINATING”
its very reasonable point of view.
realy good post
thank you 😉
Lord, you sound like a complete asshole throughout this interview. Awful questions (“Will you meet God?” — what kind of question is that? other than a dumb one, anyway) and apparently no sense of respect or conversational flow.
so … will GOD pose ala mode for Mr. Nimoy or no? – google
i myself believe that humanbeing is not just its mind as some think so,but if you want to know that you have to observe it as a complex and not allowed to depart it as your willings.
I enjoyed this interview very much. I loved the Spock character as a high school student and would have appreciated some questions about Mr. Nimoy’s attitude toward NASA and our foundering human space exploration program. Does he have any idea how to speed man’s scientific advances?
I admire Leonard Nimoy’s life and work, especially–but not only–Star Trek. Like others here, I found this particular interview to be one of those in which the answers are better than the questions, and found the interviewer to be needlessly antagonistic, even aggressive.
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