Leonard Nimoy and ‘Star Trek’ Costar William Shatner's Feud Explained



William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
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Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner’s friendship was set up to be magical.

Before earning the roles of Mr. Spock and James T. Kirk respectively in Star Trek, the pair were born just four days apart in March 1931 with big dreams of acting in Hollywood.

“I was filled with admiration for Leonard on many levels,” Shatner told The Hollywood Reporter in February 2016 when reflecting on the early days of their friendship. “His intelligence and his creativity and his passions and his focus as an actor [were impressive].”

While the duo found great success and friendship in the Star Trek franchise, their relationship ultimately deteriorated after a nearly 50-year bond. To this day, the exact reasoning behind their fallout remains a mystery — but remains in the headlines even after Nimoy died in 2015.

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“I just don’t know and it is sad and it is permanent,” Shatner told the publication. “I don’t know why he stopped talking to me.”

Keep reading for a full history of Nimoy and Shatner’s relationship that extended far beyond the small screen.

1965

Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek Costar William Shatner s Feud Explained

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
Cover Images

Although Nimoy and Shatner worked together on one episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 1964, their friendship didn’t fully launch until they filmed a Star Trek pilot one year later. The science-fiction TV series took off with the costars filming 79 episodes over three years. Their connection only deepened through regular fan conventions and a run of six movies.

1966

In the early days of Star Trek, reports stated that Shater and Nimoy may have had some battles of the ego. But in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shatner couldn’t recall anything serious. “I would think that any clashes that we had in the beginning, it was so long ago that I am forced to try and recreate what fireworks that might have been,” he said. “I don’t remember any fireworks, I remember going to the producers and wondering whether they were going to change the thrust of the show as a result of the popularity of Spock. So my anxieties were never directed at Leonard per se, it was about ‘How was the show going to go?’”

2012

Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek Costar William Shatner s Feud Explained

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

In his 2022 book Boldly Go: Reflections On A Life Of Awe And Wonder, Shatner recalled filming a 2012 Star Trek documentary, The Captains. In the project, footage of Shatner and Nimoy attending a convention was captured. The only problem was Nimoy reportedly didn’t consent to the footage or want to be included. “Backstage, Leonard was miffed,” Shatner wrote. “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.”

2014

In February 2014, ​​Nimoy announced via social media that he had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 30 years after giving up cigarettes. According to the Mayo Clinic, the chronic inflammatory lung disease causes obstructed airflow from the lung. Symptoms can include a cough and difficulties with breathing. In Boldly Go, Shatner speculated that Nimoy’s illness may have contributed to a slow withdrawal from family and friends.

2015

Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek Costar William Shatner s Feud Explained

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

In February 2015, Nimoy died at the age of 83. His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Shatner sparked controversy when he chose not to attend his costar’s funeral. The actor later explained that he had a charity event that he couldn’t miss. “When Leonard Nimoy died a few years ago, his funeral was on a Sunday. His death was very sudden, and I had obligated myself to go to Mar-a-Lago for a Red Cross fundraiser,” Shatner told Variety in 2023. “I was one of the celebrities raising money. That event was on Saturday night. I chose to keep my promise and go to Mar-a-Lago instead of the funeral.”

2016

In his 2016 book, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, Shatner detailed the long-held friendship with his Star Trek costar. At the same time, he acknowledged their feud and inability to reconcile before Nimoy’s death. “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,” he wrote. “It is heartbreaking, heartbreaking. It is something I will wonder about, and regret, forever.”

2024

While many details surrounding Nimoy and Shatner’s feud remain private, one family member may have some answers. In an interview with Page Six published on June 2, Nimoy’s son, Adam Nimoy, described the relationship between his dad and Shatner as “unfortunate” and sad. “I know why,” he told the publication about the reason behind the feud. Adam, however, added that he is going to “let sleeping dogs lie” when it comes to the subject.



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