(Reuters) - Leonard Nimoy, who won fame and fans with his portrayal of logic-bound, half-alien Mr. Spock in the “Star Trek” TV series and movies, died on Friday. He was 83.
Nimoy, who had battled chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), died in the morning at his home in Los Angeles’ Bel Air section, his agents, Bob and David Gersh, said in a statement.
“We return you now to the stars, Leonard,” fellow “Star Trek” cast member George Takei wrote on Facebook.
“You taught us to ‘Live long and prosper,’ and you indeed did, friend,” said Takei, recalling the trademark phrase uttered by Nimoy’s character.
Nimoy had long struggled with a love-hate relationship with the role of Spock - the half-human, half-Vulcan first officer on the starship Enterprise - but came to accept its part in his life.
Last year, he disclosed on Twitter that he had been diagnosed with COPD, a progressive lung disease.
“I quit smoking 30 years ago. Not soon enough,” he tweeted to his 810,000 followers. “Grandpa says, quit now!!”
Nimoy had other roles during a lengthy career in TV, film and theater. He directed successful movies, wrote books, composed poetry, published photographs and recorded music. But he will be forever linked to Spock in the original 1960s “Star Trek” TV series and subsequent movies.
Known for suppressing his emotions and using logic to guide his actions, the pointy-eared Spock - whose father was from Vulcan and whose mother was from Earth - became one of science fiction’s best-known, most beloved characters.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has been compared to Spock for his prominent ears and coolheaded demeanor, called Nimoy and his character “the center of ‘Star Trek’s’ optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.”
“I loved Spock,” the president said in a statement.
For years, Nimoy resented that Spock defined him, but ultimately came to accept that his life would be intertwined with the character, who inspired a fervent fan following.
His feelings were summed up in the titles of his memoirs: “I Am Not Spock” in 1975 and “I Am Spock” two decades later.
“I was involved in something of a crusade to develop a reputation as an actor with some range,” Nimoy wrote in “I Am Not Spock.”
“I went through a definite identity crisis. The question was whether to embrace Mr. Spock or to fight the onslaught of public interest. I realize now that I really had no choice in the matter. Spock and ‘Star Trek’ were very much alive and there wasn’t anything that I could do to change that.”
Still, he wrote that if given the choice of being any other TV character, he would choose Spock.
Nimoy had often confronted the original series’ creators over their conception of Spock, and his input was responsible for many aspects of the character.
He came up with the “Vulcan nerve grip” that rendered foes unconscious, and the split-fingered Vulcan “live long and prosper” salute. (He said the gesture was inspired by one he had seen worshippers make in his synagogue when he was a boy.)
Nimoy signed off his tweets with “LLAP,” an abbreviation of “live long and prosper.”
“Star Trek” followed the Enterprise’s crew as they explored other worlds and encountered aliens. Spock was first officer and science officer under Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner. The two helped make “Star Trek” a cultural phenomenon.
Shatner and Nimoy sometimes had a professional rivalry but maintained a long friendship.
“I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love,” Shatner said in a statement.
NBC canceled the original TV series in 1969 after three seasons. But it found success during syndicated reruns in the 1970s and inspired fan conventions with hordes of devotees. It jumped to the big screen by the end of the decade.
Nimoy was not thrilled about taking part in the big-budget first film, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979.
But it was a financial success, leading to many sequels. Nimoy agreed to appear in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” in 1982 only after the producers promised him a great death scene and other sweeteners.
Even though Spock “dies” at the movie’s end, Nimoy reprised the role in the next four “Star Trek” films. He directed the third and fourth ones.
After those efforts, Nimoy branched out and directed the comedy “3 Men and a Baby,” the top money-making movie of 1987.
In the successful 2009 “Star Trek” reboot of the film franchise, Zachary Quinto took over the role of Spock, but Nimoy appeared as an older version of the character.
Nimoy, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was born in 1931 in Boston and began acting at age 8. In the 1950s and 1960s, he had roles on TV and in the movies, including “Zombies of the Stratosphere.” Later, he hosted the TV series “In Search Of...” (1976-1982) and co-starred in 1978’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” film remake.
His renown as Spock led to quirky guest appearances on popular TV shows in recent decades, including the cartoons “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” (in which he provided the voice for his own disembodied head) and on the “The Big Bang Theory,” in which he was the voice of an opinionated Spock doll.
Nimoy was married twice and had two children. He is survived by his wife, Susan, children and grandchildren.
Reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey and Frank Simons in Los Angeles and Patricia Reaney in New York; Editing by Bill Trott, Susan Heavey, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan oatis