“For the Love of Spock” opens in Bay Area theaters Friday, Sept. 9 –– 50 years and a day after “Star Trek” first brought American television viewers to the stars.
The documentary delves into the creation of Spock, and the alien’s alter ego, actor Leonard Nimoy: his struggle with alcohol, his distance as a father, and how his Jewish heritage influenced his famous sci-fi character.
Directed by the actor’s son, Adam Nimoy, the film at times shies away from deeper insight, but overall offers the unique perspective only family can see –– flaws and all.
But when Adam Nimoy visited San Francisco for the film’s West Coast premiere in late July, he revealed in an interview Leonard Nimoy’s San Francisco connections.
Leonard Nimoy loved The City by the bay, Adam said.
In 1978 Leonard Nimoy came to San Francisco to star in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and in 1980 his one-man show about Vincent Van Gogh was filmed here. Famously, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” was shot in San Francisco. It’s one of the few “Star Trek” films directed by Nimoy himself.
Yet the earliest connection between Spock and the Golden Gate involves a family trip to San Francisco in December, 1965, Adam said.
Leonard Nimoy, his wife and two children drove up to The City to see his debut in “Death Watch,” a film adaptation of a play by Jean Genet exploring the romantic tensions between three cellmates.
“We were very young, this was before ‘Star Trek.’ My dad was doing a lot of hustling and odd jobs back at that time,” Nimoy told the Examiner.
In “For the Love of Spock,” the Nimoys were portrayed as living on a thin wire as Leonard worked every gig he could find –– even selling aquariums.
“Death Watch” could bolster his father’s career, Adam said, so “There was a lot of great anticipation when we took this driving trip up the coast.”
They first landed in North Beach, where the younger Nimoy was exposed to a lot of “counter culture activity.”
The family stayed at the long-gone Villa Roma hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf, what Nimoy described as “futuristically round.” He recalled the film opening in North Beach, perhaps at the Pagoda Theater, on Columbus Avenue.
But Adam Nimoy and his sister weren’t allowed to see the film, as it “dealt with a lot of homoerotic stuff,” he said.
Ultimately, the film was received well enough in Hollywood for his father to get that expected boost.
“Death Watch,” Adam said, “was really key in getting him this television work.”
In 1965, Leonard Nimoy caught a lucky break while in San Francisco. In 1966, a vulcan with an oft-cocked eyebrow introduced himself to the world as Spock.
IF YOU GO
For the Love of Spock
Starring Leonard Nimoy, Adam Nimoy
Directed by Adam Nimoy
Running time 1 hour, 40 minutes
Note The film screens at the Roxie, 3117 16th St., S.F., and the Grand Lake, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland.