The close and enduring friendship of Star Trek legends William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy lasted for fifty years but sadly ended in an unhealable rift.
- William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s 50-year friendship ended with an unresolved rift, causing deep regret for Shatner.
- A breach occurred when Nimoy was upset about unauthorized footage being taken of him during a convention appearance.
- Nimoy’s illness and eventual passing may have contributed to the inability to reconcile, but Shatner continues to remember him fondly.
The half-century friendship between Star Trek: The Original Series icons William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy ended with a tragic falling out. Close for many years, the two Star Trek actors had much in common. Born four days apart in March 1931, from similar backgrounds, they both dreamed of acting and struggled to mild – and ultimately great – success. Coming together in late 1965 on the set of the second (and successful) Star Trek pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” they then embarked on a journey to launch a significantly successful franchise that would span universes and a multi-decade brotherly bond that would sadly end with an unresolved rift.
Shatner and Nimoy had previously worked together on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., season 1, episode 9, “The Project Strigas Affair.” However, in Leonard, My Fifty-Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man co-written by William Shatner and David Fisher, Shatner doubts that either remembered doing so upon their reunion on the Star Trek set. Despite initial bumps in their early relationship, Nimoy and Shatner became friends over Star Trek’s three-year, three-season, seventy-nine-episode run. Their connection deepened through regular fan conventions and a run of six movies to a fifty-year friendship that echoed that of their respective Star Trek characters, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy).
Why William Shatner’s 50-Year Friendship With Leonard Nimoy Ended
In Boldly Go: Reflections On A Life Of Awe And Wonder by William Shatner and Joshua Brandon, Shanter recounts that the years before Nimoy’s death were difficult for their friendship. During the 2012 filming of the Star Trek documentary The Captains, footage of Shatner during a convention appearance also captured Nimoy on stage without his consent. “Backstage, Leonard was miffed,” Shatner reveals, adding, “Anything with Leonard would have been incidental, and we weren’t going to use it. […] I had no intention of trying to sneak Leonard into the film.” Despite attempts to address and heal the rupture, Nimoy and Shatner were no longer on speaking terms.
Unfortunately, the actors could not achieve closure. In Boldly Go, Shatner speculates that Nimoy’s illness, a progressive lung condition causing breathing difficulties, may have also contributed to a slow withdrawal from family and friends. Sadly, a resolution to their shattered friendship would ultimately not be found. After reprising his role as Spock in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Kelvin-verse Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) on February 27, 2015.
To criticism at the time, Shatner did not attend Nimoy’s funeral, opting to maintain a charity obligation, believing that his choice was what Nimoy, charity-minded himself, would have wanted.
Shatner Regrets His Falling Out With Nimoy
The loss of his friendship with Leonard Nimoy and their inability to reconcile deeply affected William Shatner. In Leonard, a book detailing and celebrating their long-held friendship, he writes, “One of my greatest regrets is that Leonard and I were not as close as we had been during those last few years of his life,” later adding that “[…] it is heartbreaking, heartbreaking. It is something I will wonder about, and regret, forever.” Some final comfort came from Leonard Nimoy’s family, as Shatner writes about in Boldly Go, when Nimoy’s daughter, Julie, reached out to share that Leonard Nimoy had loved him.
One of my greatest regrets is that Leonard and I were not as close as we had been during those last few years of his life.
It’s a sad and unsatisfactory end to the Shatner-Nimoy friendship, who genuinely cared about each other for many years despite their final separation. Though the brotherly bond between their on-screen characters succeeds them, the reality of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s friendship is, in the end, less epic. Despite their distance, however, the heartfelt sentiments of their friendship endured. Since Leonard Nimoy died in 2015, William Shatner has fondly remembered his co-star and warmly reminisced about their times together over a lifetime of meaningful experiences.