I very much disagree with an article I read this morning in The Guardian and now I have reason to argue my point. To paraphrase the article, the author fel film Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is an inaccurate portrayal of typecasting and that serious actors love playing superheroes. I’m sure they do, but acceptance of serious actors in films like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and more is a fairly recent phenomenon. Though many will go on to play other parts and win accolades, a perfect example of such typecasting is Leonard Nimoy, who passed away today at the age of 83.
Though not a superhero in the traditional sense, Spock and Star Trek occupied similar territory. Without a doubt, most who remember him will do so his part as the half-Vulcan science officer, a role he played in two television series, a cartoon, eight films, and countless guest spots over 47 years.
Aside from my own infatuation with Star Trek as kid and teen (I was called Captain Quirk for a reason), I knew him in a few other ways, too. I’ve always had a fascination with the filmmaking process and Mr. Nimoy hosted a behind-the-scenes show on Nickelodeon in the early ’80s called Standby: Lights, Cameras, Action! The episodes that covered special effects and sci-fi were always the most intriguing to me.
In Search of… was an investigatory show that explored the paranormal, extraterrestrial, and other unexplained topics – another fascination from my younger days. Something about his commanding voice made every topic believable, be it the Loch Ness monster or alien abductions.
Let’s not forget his guest spots on shows like Columbo and more recently on Fringe, his starring role in the original Mission Impossible series, his performance in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other films, or the fact that he not only directed two Star Trek films and 3 Men and a Baby.
He was also a photographer whose works have been exhibited widely and available in book form (NSFW).
Though some of the tracks are laughable by today’s standards, he released six albums of music. A popular practice at the time, the albums were meant to capitalize on his popularity as the Spock character and were released by the same production company as Star Trek and Mission Impossible. Tracks range from space-focused songs in and out of character to covers of Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, and John Hartford to show tunes and originals that Nimoy either co-wrote or wrote on his own.
With all of those accomplishments, he’ll always be thought of as Spock. Unlike Birdman’s Riggan, Nimoy seemed at ease with the role, but the Guardian article really misses the mark in claiming there aren’t drawbacks to fantasy roles. Actors like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Mark Hamill, Christopher Reeve, Adam West and many others might have something to say about it.